Question: Do case studies from silvicultural and restoration studies and applied conservation management in second-growth Pinus palustris stands provide unique insights for conservation models?
Methods: A review of management paradigms that conserve the high biological diversity and rare species, drawn from characteristics in both second-growth and old-growth stands, is presented for fire-maintained Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) forests.
Results: A common assumption that old-growth stands provide the primary information for the development of conservation management strategies de-emphasizes lessons learned from second-growth and restoration studies. Primary conservation management goals for the Pinus palustris ecosystem include the perpetual regeneration of the fire-maintained forest and conservation of the characteristically high biological diversity and rare species. Several attributes, such as a sustained population of Picoides borealis (red-cockaded woodpecker), Aristida stricta (wiregrass)-dominated ground cover, and undisturbed upland-wetland ecotones, can predict a diverse and ecologically functional ecosystem. Such indicators are linked to critical structural and functional features of the system and reflect previous land management histories that suggest sustainable approaches.
Conclusions: A traditional definition of ‘old-growth’ relying on overstorey may be limited in describing important features of healthy, diverse Pinus palustris ecosystems. Some characteristics are significantly more important for maintenance of diversity than age of the trees and these features may be present in old- or second-growth forests. We advocate that the management history, structural characteristics and landscape context of stands that harbour desirable conservation attributes (red-cockaded woodpeckers, wiregrass, gopher tortoises and undisturbed upland-wetland ecotones) can be used as indicators to identify important conservation and forest management principles.
Abbreviation: NWR = St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge; RCW = Red cockaded woodpecker; SNA = Stoddard-Neel approach.