Study finds that actively managed pine landscapes can provide open canopy conditions

Pine forests of the southeastern Coastal Plain were historically described as open pine woodlands and savannahs with relatively open tree canopies and species-rich understory vegetation that supported diverse wildlife communities. Many species of disturbance-adapted wildlife associated with open pine woodlands have declined in abundance since European settlement. 

Recently, NCASI participated in a study titled Open Pine Habitat: Desired Ecological States Provided by Managed Forests that was jointly sponsored by the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative and Mississippi State University. Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) were established by the U.S. Department of Interior to provide science capacity and technical expertise for meeting shared natural and cultural resource priorities.

The open pine project evaluated the extent to which managed pine systems in the Coastal Plain can maintain open structural conditions (e.g., basal area, canopy closure) and associated wildlife species. The investigators conducted a comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis of biodiversity and wildlife responses to several site preparation techniques, thinning, and mid-rotation applications of prescribed fire and selective herbicide. Results of this review and meta-analysis were presented by Greene et al. (2016) which was published in Forest Ecology and Management.
Based on results of this review and meta-analysis, the authors also used NCASI’s harvest scheduling software (HabPlan) to assess availability of open pine forest conditions in a managed landscape across a 50-year time span. A publication presenting results of this analysis is currently undergoing peer review.

Recently, the Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network released a summary of key results from this study titled Beyond Wood Products: Conserving Open Pine Wildlife Communities in Commercial Pine Stands. In the summary, the authors report that loblolly pine stands managed for timber products do provide forest structural conditions important to wildlife species associated with open pine woodlands and savannahs, and that active management can help ensure persistence of open pine conditions over time across managed landscapes.

Reference 

Greene, R.E., R.B. Iglay, K.O. Evans, D.A. Miller, T.B. Wigley, and S.K. Riffell. 2016. A meta-analysis of biodiversity responses to management of southeastern pine forests—Opportunities for open pine conservation. Forest Ecology and Management 360: 30–39. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2015.10.007