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Longleaf pine gap dynamics on a North Carolina flatwoods site.
Kush, John1, Cohen, Susan2, Ludovici, Kim3, 1 2 3
ABSTRACT- Natural regeneration of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) is one of the most important tools natural resource managers have at their disposal to regenerate existing longleaf pine stands in the southern United States. However, high variation and unpredictability in year-to-year cone production make natural regeneration problematic. National Forests are going to longer rotations and contemplating uneven-aged management for longleaf pine. Several studies on excessively drained sandhill sites have indicated there is a tendency for longleaf to regenerate primarily in gaps. The more poorly drained flatwood and savanna sites are generally productive and contain high numbers of rare species, yet have been largely ignored in regeneration and gap studies. Sites on the eastern Coastal Plain of North Carolina in the Croatan National Forest have been established to examine the regeneration issue. These sites, on Onslow soils, contain second-growth longleaf forests and have been winter burned once every two to four years for the last 20 years. The study found few longleaf pine seedlings, and cone counts that were too low to be considered adequate for regeneration. The frequent prescribed burning regime has produced an intact understory groundcover with high species diversity and strong competition for the sparse resources. Proper management of longleaf pine forests will enable public land managers to meet the multiple-use demands placed on that ecosystem, while preserving a rare community type.
KEY WORDS: Pinus palustris, regeneration, North Carolina, fire