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Managing Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) Stands for the Restoration of Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) Habitat

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Final rept.

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Throughout the southeastern United States, upland sites that were once dominated by longleaf pine Pinus palustris Mill. have been widely converted to faster growing species such as loblolly pine P. taeda L.. Consequently, existing populations of the federally endangered redcockaded woodpecker RCW Picoides borealis are currently occupying mature loblolly pine stands. Reports of declining loblolly pine health in some locations raised concerns about the longevity of existing RCW habitat and underscored the need to convert upland forests back to longleaf pine. Forest managers needed protocols to restore longleaf pine on sites where canopy pines are retained. Further, because protocol suitability is likely to vary among site types based on productivity and the structure and composition of the canopy and ground layer vegetation protocol development on a range of site conditions was necessary. The need for such protocols were deemed critical at Fort Benning, Georgia, where as many as 70 of the active RCW cavities were found in loblolly pine trees. Because longleaf pine seedling growth tends to decrease as canopy cover increases, the conversion of loblolly pine stands to longleaf was expected to require a balance between canopy removal to increase the growth of planted longleaf pine seedlings and canopy retention for RCW habitat and other ecosystem services e.g., fuel inputs from needlefall. Retaining the trees likely to live the longest would secure the most RCW habitat value through time thus, a model for predicting tree longevity would be a valuable management tool. Additionally, an increased understanding of environmental factors associated with reduced loblolly pine health was needed to inform RCW management decisions at Fort Benning.

Subject Categories:

  • Biology
  • Ecology

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