Longleaf pine stand in Osceola National Forest. The understory is dominated with saw-palmetto. Credit: Geoff Gallice. Longleaf pine was once one of the most extensive forest ecosystems in North America, covering an estimated 90 million acres, an area roughly the size of Montana. It spanned the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains from Virginia to Texas and also reached further inland in areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Today, the cumulative impacts of a changing landscape have rendered longleaf pine forests one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.
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Longleaf pine stand in Osceola National Forest. The understory is dominated with saw-palmetto. Credit: Geoff Gallice. Longleaf pine was once one of the most extensive forest ecosystems in North America, covering an estimated 90 million acres, an area roughly the size of Montana.
It spanned the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains from Virginia to Texas and also reached further inland in areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Today, the cumulative impacts of a changing landscape have rendered longleaf pine forests one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.
Less than four percent of longleaf pine forests remain — roughly 3. Even worse, the remaining longleaf pine is in largely fragmented stands and much is in poor condition. Longleaf pines have the longest needles of all southern pines. Needles range from seven to 18 inches in length.
The disappearance of longleaf forests is primarily the result of lumber production and land-use changes. Longleaf pine was harvested significantly throughout the 19th century, and historical longleaf forests were converted into urban communities, agricultural lands or industrial pine plantations. When longleaf pine was in its prime, it was one of the most ecologically important tree species in the southern United States.
Its forests hosted nearly different plant species. Today, these forests are home to an estimated bird, 36 mammal and reptile and amphibian species. In addition, the U. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed 29 species that are associated with longleaf pine forests as threatened or endangered. One of the endangered species the longleaf pine supports is the red-cockaded woodpecker, a keystone species that is essential for the survival of 27 other animal species.
The gopher tortoise is a keystong species in longleaf forests because it digs burrows that provide shelter for more than animal species. Credit: U. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region. Restoring these forests will improve critical wildlife habitat, water quality and resistance to insect and disease infestation.
NRCS and its Department of Agriculture interagency working group set a goal to protect, restore or enhance an additional 4. More resources are needed, but NRCS has identified.
Red-cockaded woodpecker. This initiative is one of the landscape conservation initiatives that enable NRCS to more effectively address priority natural resource concerns by delivering systems of practice primarily to the most vulnerable lands within geographic focus areas. American Forests has long recognized the importance of restoring longleaf pine and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Young longleaf pine. Since , American Forests has funded the planting of nearly four million longleaf pine across more than 8, acres in the state of Florida alone.
The Global ReLeaf program depends in part on the support of dedicated members like you. With your help, American Forests can continue to expand our work restoring longleaf pine ecosystems to their historic populations. Jami Westerhold, Esq. The Forest-Climate Working Group pushes forests to the forefront of the fight to combat climate change. May 31st, February 5th, Learn how American Forests has worked diligently during this Congress to ensure policymakers understand the important role of forests as a climate solution.
American Forests. Read More. Urban forestry garners growing support on Capitol Hill.
Longleaf pine ecosystem
The longleaf pine ecosystem is a climax temperate coniferous forest habitat found within the southeastern United States; it includes many rare plant and animal species, and is one of the most biodiverse in North America. Once the largest ecosystem in North America, it now occupies less than a quarter of the original range. Degradation of the ecosystem is partially due to excessive timber harvesting , urbanization , and fire exclusion. Although the ecosystem is heavily fragmented at present, it still carries a great diversity of plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. A range of techniques, including planting longleaf seedlings, introducing prescribed burning regimens, managing native ground cover, and controlling invasive species within the ecosystem, are used in attempting to preserve this threatened ecosystem. During the Ice Age , when the North American continental glaciers extended as far south as parts of the Ohio River , the climate was colder and drier; longleaf pine and associated species grew in coastal regions away from the ice, from Florida to Mexico. During the Holocene, the ice retreated, the climate became warm and dry, and the longleaf pine ecosystem established itself in its historical range.
Where to See Longleaf Forests
Places to See Longleaf Pine in Texas