The Perpetual Forest

Kirkman, L. K., R. J. Mitchell, M. J. Kaeser, S. D. Pecot, and K. L. Coffey. 2007. The perpetual forest: using undesirable species to bridge restoration. Journal of Applied Ecology 44:604-614.

This paper is full of good ol' common sense. When converting stands of (exotic) slash pine back to (native) longleaf pine in GA, it may be beneficial to leave slash pines in the overstory until the longleaf pines become established.
Current practice is to remove all slash pine right off the bat. The sudden influx of light releases woody plants in the understory, which then choke out longleaf pine seedlings and desirable grasses and forbs. The resulting mess requires intensive herbicide use and careful management. Retaining some slash pines may not jive with conventional wisdom, but it results in more favorable conditions and is easier and more economical.

This approach certainly wouldn't work for every ecosystem, but it's a step in the right direction for forest restoration in general. Because most forests are multilayered, the vast majority of tree species benefit from some form of overstory retention. The main problem I can see with this method is that mature trees continue to reproduce until removed, resulting in this case in more undesirable trees. It would be interesting to hear from people in other disciplines to see if they've heard of similar restoration methods being used in their own fields.

Posted on behalf of Katherine Naegele. Photo: Florida NRCS, USDA

No comments:

Post a Comment