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1 January 2018 Defining Old-Growth Stand Characteristics in Fragmented Natural Landscapes: A Case Study of Old-Growth Pine in Florida (USA) State Parks
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Despite historically dominating many landscapes of the southeastern United States, old-growth stands of southern pine (Pinus palustris, P. elliottii var. densa, P. elliottii Engelm. var. elliottii, P. echinata, and P. taeda) are extremely rare and have high ecological value, but may be underrepresented and mischaracterized due to small fragment size and restrictive definitions. Such misunderstanding is a barrier to future old-growth management and conservation. To quantify, characterize, and conserve these remnants, we conducted inventories for five species of old-growth southern pines on 16 sites across ∼44,110 forested ha managed by the Florida Park Service. We used characteristics of old-growth pines and forests from the literature to locate potential sites and assess status and threats. This inventory documented 4697.5 ha of old-growth southern pines in 16 parks throughout Florida. The median size stand we inventoried or included due to existing documentation is 121 ha, with stands as small as eight ha and as large as 2020 ha. Despite their small relative extent, these stands harbor rare, threatened, or endangered species and represent significant conservation areas in the region. A threat common to most of the old-growth stands in Florida State Parks is complications from reintroduction of prescribed fire following prolonged fire exclusion. Heavy fuel loading and invasion of off-site species has resulted in high post-fire mortality linked to both forest floor duff consumption and overstory crown consumption. Management measures are presented to improve conditions of old-growth southern pines in Florida State Parks, and have relevance to broader conservation efforts in the southeastern USA.

Erik D. Johnson (Deceased), Tova Spector, J. Kevin Hiers, Dan Pearson, J. Morgan Varner, and John Bente "Defining Old-Growth Stand Characteristics in Fragmented Natural Landscapes: A Case Study of Old-Growth Pine in Florida (USA) State Parks," Natural Areas Journal 38(1), 88-98, (1 January 2018).
Published: 1 January 2018

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