Friday, April 27, 2012

Long live longleaf pine...

I just returned from visiting State Forests in North Carolina and South Carolina that are part of our Regional Longleaf Pine Cone Production StudySandhills State Forest is in Chesterfield and Darlington counties of SC and Bladen Lakes State Forest is located just northeast of Lumberton, NC.  This is the 47th monitoring year of this work, which was initiated by Bill Boyer and is now coordinated by Dale Brockway

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is monoecious (i.e., “one house”), which means that both male and female strobili reside on the same tree.  The male strobili, called catkins, produce all that wonderful pollen we see in the spring-time and are generally found in the lower portion of the tree crown. 

Male strobili
Photo courtesy of Forestry Images

The female strobili are initially called flowers (then conelets during the following spring and mature cones by the fall), are generally found in the upper portion of the tree crown. 
Female strobili
Photo courtesy of Forestry Images

Conelets turn into the seed-bearing cones, synonymous with members of the Pinaceae family, and typically shed their seed during October.

Photo courtesy of Forestry Images

During our survey, we count the number of female flowers (newly pollinated but undeveloped small conelets), conelets (pollinated about one year earlier and developed into large “green cones”), and brown cones currently on the tree (that shed their seed during the previous fall).  The female strobili emerge during January/February and are pollinated during the infamous spring pollen flush that occurs between late-February and April.  Those strobili are now pollinated, but don’t become conelets until the following spring when fertilization occurs.  Those conelets then become seed-bearing cones, maturing during mid-September and mid-October.

Cone count data from ten widely-dispersed locations in the Southern Region are compiled and then assembled into a report that forecasts the longleaf pine cone crop for each state and for the region. 

In the past, landowners and land managers had trouble naturally regenerating longleaf pine, because of what was thought to be erratic seed production.  Through research, we now know that longleaf cone crops are highly variable from year to year because of the interaction of many physical and biological variables.  The longleaf pine cone production survey helps predict when a good or poor seed year is coming.  This alerts forest managers so they can be prepared to implement site-preparation treatments when more seeds are likely to fall on a receptive seedbed.

For more information on longleaf pine ecosystems, please see our research page.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big Time at Brosnan Forest!

We were invited by Norfolk Southern Railway to give a presentation on the amazing biodiversity in the ground-layer of longleaf pine forests.  Thanks to all those at Brosnan Forest who made this wonderful trip possible. The field tour was packed full of interesting information.

We were able to share a good bit of the longleaf pine story with an audience new to the subject.  Longleaf pine forests are special places!  We illustrated the incredibly high diversity of species with a set of nested plots, then talked about endemic plants, and the important role fire has in these forest systems.

Just another beautiful day in the woods!

"The land of the longleaf pine is a land of great beauty... swaggering over the Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas...Yet little is left of the longleaf pine ecosystem today: only 1.4% of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains still support longleaf, compared to 60% in presettlement times.  By 1996 only 2.95 million acres of longleaf remained out of the original 92 million acres ... Almost all of the old-growth forest is gone ... By any measure, longleaf's decline of nearly 98% is among the most severe of any  ecosystem on earth.  It dwarf's the Amazon rain forest's losses of somewhere between 13% and 25%.  It is comparable to or exceeds the decline in the North American tallgrass prairie, the coastal forest of Brazil, and the dry forests of the Pacific Coast of Central America." 

-from Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest by Lawrence S. Earley

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monitoring Ramps Populations

We just enjoyed another week in the mountian coves of western North Carolina...

One of our many sampling transects...

A time lapse of Rod and I sampling an entire plot...