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Restoration of Northwest Florida Sandhills Through Harvest of Invasive Pinus clausa

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Abstract

Across much of the southeastern U.S.A., sandhills have become dominated by hardwoods or invasive pine species following logging of Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) and fire suppression. At Eglin Air Force Base where this study was conducted, Pinus clausa (sand pine) has densely colonized most southeastern sandhill sites, suppressing groundcover vegetation. The objectives of this study were: to determine if suppressed groundcover vegetation recovers following the removal of P. clausa; to compare species composition and abundance in removal plots with that in reference, high quality sandhills; to test the assumption that recolonization by P. clausa seedlings decreases with proximity to the centers of removal plots; and to measure the survival of containerized P. palustris seedlings that were planted on P. clausa removal plots. One year post-removal (1995), the number of plant species decreased by 50%, but then increased by 100% from 1995 to 1997, followed by a small reduction in 1998. The number of plant species was greater in reference plots than in removal plots prior to 1997. Eighty-five percent of the original species were recorded 4 years post-harvest in removal plots. Shrubs and large trees remained at low density after harvest. Densities of graminoids, legumes, other forbs, woody vines, and small trees increased after harvest. Plant densities of all life forms, except woody vines, were greater in reference plots than in removal plots. The density of recolonizing P. clausa seedlings 2–4 years post-harvest significantly decreased with increasing proximity to the centers of removal plots. On average, 80% of planted P. palustris seedlings survived their first 2 years. Harvest of P. clausa followed by fire and the planting of P. palustris is a reasonably effective restoration approach in invaded sandhills. However, supplementary plantings of some herbaceous species may be necessary for full restoration.

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