Friday, January 21, 2011

More on Longleaf Pine

Reproductive Stages of Longleaf
I finished Lawrence Earley's book and made some additional windshield surveys for longleaf pines, seeking to explain their apparent absence as one approaches the Gulf Coast.

One bit of good news: they aren’t completely absent from the areas where I had failed to notice them earlier. Searching more intently, I spotted a few along State Highway 24 between Bronson and Cedar Key. Indeed, they were not infrequent in the Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve, sharing a scattered overstory with sand and slash pines. They even appeared to be reproducing in a few locations. They were rare in the Devil’s Hammock, an area obviously intensively managed for slash pines. This area is quite wet, as is much of the land between Otter Creek and Rosewood, and slash pines might dominate wet sites even in the absence of management.

Information gleaned from the book led to some insights concerning otherwise suitable places where longleaf pines are rare or absent. These pines take many decades to reach maturity and once cut over, there is little incentive for commercial foresters to replant them or encourage their regrowth. Loblolly and slash pines, on the other hand, grow much more rapidly and can be harvested after only a few decades. And pines grown for pulpwood are best for paper production if harvested at 20 years or less. The economic advantages of quick rotation have caused commercial forest management to favor these fast-growing species to the exclusion of longleaf, and many public forests have also been managed for maximum timber harvests. It should be of little surprise that the longer and more intensively an area has been managed, the less likely one is to find longleaf. Conversely, occasional specimens are often encountered on suitable lands that were never subjected to intensive forest management.

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