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1994 Proceedings
North American Conference on Savannas and Barrens


Brian Palik
and Neil Pederson
Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center
Route 2, Box 2324
Newton, GA 31770

Living in the Edge: 1994 Midwest Oak Savanna Conferences

Stand structural characteristics were quantified within an 11,000 ha longleaf pine savanna in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Past management within the study landscape included annual dormant season burning, removal of dead longleaf pines, and hi-grade logging of pine. In 1987, the landscape came under reserve status which greatly altered management activities. Current management includes annual dormant season fire with occasional growing season fire, debris retention, and cessation of logging.

The objectives of the current study were to 1) quantify current stand structural characteristics, including composition, tree age and size distributions, horizontal canopy structure, and large woody debris loadings, 2) assess deviation of structure away from that characteristic of an old-growth condition, and 3) quantify recent dynamics in structure that have resulted from the shift in management.

While all stands are dominated by longleaf pine, the importance of several oak species in larger size classes is greater then in old-growth savannas. Increased oak importance results from a long history of dormant season fire. In most stands longleaf pine populations are uneven-aged, with trees concentrated into several cohorts. This contrasts with the balanced all-aged distribution typical of old-growth stands. Some stands do contain large, old trees (up to 170 years old) but past logging has reduced their number well below that found in old-growth stands. Further, dormant season burning has greatly reduced longleaf pine advanced regeneration, as evidenced by the lack of individuals in smaller diameter classes. Horizontal crown cover is low, similar to old-growth savannas. However, exposed crown area is concentrated in larger diameter classes, again reflecting a lack of advanced regeneration. Many stands do contain large populations of seedling longleaf pine that established during a massed seed year following a growing season fire in 1987. Large woody longleaf pine debris has rapidly developed since the change in management. While numbers of snags and logs per unit area in some stands is approaching levels similar to old-growth stands, size and decay distributions are weighted towards smaller, less decayed debris.

Future management activities which might be used to hasten development of old-growth structure include continued growing season burning at variable frequency, oak removal, creation of debris by killing larger trees, and planting of longleaf pine to facilitate development of diverse age and size structure.



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