Using existing growth models to predict RCW habitat development following site preparation: pitfalls of the process and potential growth responseThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Land managers throughout the Southeast are interested in restoring the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem, due in part to its value as habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis). In 2003, we established a study at Camp Lejeune, NC, to determine the effects of common site preparation treatments (mounding, bedding, herbicide, and chopping) on longleaf pine restoration on wet sites. We monitored mortality and measured root-collar diameter and height after three growing seasons. Although we found early increases in seedling growth in response to site preparation, it is unclear if these differences will persist throughout stand development. We extrapolated the results using existing growth-and-yield models to predict possible outcomes of site preparation on survival, dominant height, basal area, and quadratic mean diameter. Our projections suggest that stand structure for suitable foraging habitat could potentially be reached around 25 years earlier on the treatment with the most early growth (chopping/herbicide/bedding) when compared to the untreated check. However, liberal application of the models generates considerable uncertainty regarding interpretation of the results; we discuss the sources of error and suggest areas for needed research.