Initial mortality rates and extent of damage to loblolly and longleaf pine plantations affected by an ice storm in South Carolina
A major ice storm struck Georgia and the Carolinas in February of 2014, damaging or destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares of timber worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Losses were particularly severe in pine plantations in west-central South Carolina, including many on the Savannah River Site (SRS). An array of paired, mid-rotation loblolly (Pinus taeda L.) and longleaf (Pinus palustris Mill.) pine plantations on the SRS provided an opportunity to evaluate species- and size-based tree responses to this storm. A preliminary assessment of these recently thinned plantations found that longleaf pines experienced higher mortality rates than loblolly pines; in part, this result was confounded with tree size (dbh). A more detailed analysis found that longleaf pines, even when controlled for dbh, experienced higher mortality rates and a greater degree of certain types of injuries than comparably sized loblolly pines. These results suggest that longleaf pine planted in glaze-prone regions of the southeastern United States may need to be managed with different planting densities, thinning regimes, and/or rotation ages than loblolly pine.