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Observations on a Rare Old-Growth Montane Longleaf Pine Forest in Central North Carolina, USA

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Montane longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests are rare and no detailed inventory exists documenting stands in North Carolina. We inventoried all longleaf pine trees (n = 403) growing in a 24-ha remnant montane longleaf pine forest in the Uwharrie Mountains of central North Carolina, USA, in autumn 2014 to (1) map their location, (2) document age/height/diameter characteristics, and (3) determine special ecological features of this rare montane population. All longleaf pine were geographically referenced via GPS, measured for height and diameter, and a subsample of trees was cored to determine age. All longleaf pine were mapped based on growth-stage categories-grass, juvenile, young adult, and mature-to determine spatial patterning of stand-age characteristics. The longleaf pine stand contains a variety of growth-stage categories, but is dominated (63%) by mature-stage trees growing on south- and southwestern-facing slopes, while nearly all regeneration-stage trees (i.e., grass and juvenile) are growing on northwest-facing slopes, suggesting environmental conditions conducive to establishment have changed. Median (maximum) tree height and trunk diameter for young adult and mature were 17 (25) m and 38 (72) cm, respectively. Median (maximum) tree age at 0.3 m height was 116 years (272 years), and at least seven trees were greater than 150 years old, with four trees establishing in the 18th century. We conclude that the stand's characteristics-400+ trees of various ages including old-growth, occurring principally on steep, southerly slopes with a total relief of 85 m, and extending over 24 ha-warrant "montane" longleaf pine forest status in North Carolina.
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Observations on a Rare Old-Growth Montane Longleaf Pine Forest in Central
North Carolina, USA
Author(s): Thomas W. Patterson and Paul A. Knapp
Source: Natural Areas Journal, 36(2):153-161.
Published By: Natural Areas Association
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3375/043.036.0206
URL: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.3375/043.036.0206
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Volume 36 (2), 2016 Natural Areas Journal 153
ABSTRACT: Montane longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests are rare and no detailed inventory exists
documenting stands in North Carolina. We inventoried all longleaf pine trees (n = 403) growing in
a 24-ha remnant montane longleaf pine forest in the Uwharrie Mountains of central North Carolina,
USA, in autumn 2014 to (1) map their location, (2) document age/height/diameter characteristics, and
(3) determine special ecological features of this rare montane population. All longleaf pine were geo-
graphically referenced via GPS, measured for height and diameter, and a subsample of trees was cored
to determine age. All longleaf pine were mapped based on growth-stage categories—grass, juvenile,
young adult, and mature—to determine spatial patterning of stand-age characteristics. The longleaf
pine stand contains a variety of growth-stage categories, but is dominated (63%) by mature-stage trees
growing on south- and southwestern-facing slopes, while nearly all regeneration-stage trees (i.e., grass
and juvenile) are growing on northwest-facing slopes, suggesting environmental conditions conducive
to establishment have changed. Median (maximum) tree height and trunk diameter for young adult and
mature were 17 (25) m and 38 (72) cm, respectively. Median (maximum) tree age at 0.3 m height was
116 years (272 years), and at least seven trees were greater than 150 years old, with four trees establishing
in the 18th century. We conclude that the stand’s characteristics—400+ trees of various ages including
old-growth, occurring principally on steep, southerly slopes with a total relief of 85 m, and extending
over 24 ha—warrant “montane” longleaf pine forest status in North Carolina.
Index terms: forest inventory, longleaf pine, montane, North Carolina, old growth
INTRODUCTION
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) is
a long-lived (>400 years; Earle 2014)
species native to the southeastern United
States Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains
and Piedmont physiographic regions,
but also occurs at some locations in the
Ridge and Valley (i.e., montane) regions
of Alabama and Northern Georgia (Boyer
1990). Since the late 17th century, the
species’ extent has diminished from 37
million hectares (Frost 1993) to 1.74 mil-
lion hectares (Oswalt et al. 2012) due to
various anthropogenic processes including
fire suppression, logging, agriculture, and
naval stores activities (Frost 2006). Within
the Piedmont physiographic region ranging
from Alabama to North Carolina, some
longleaf pine communities exist on steep,
mountainous terrain at elevations typically
<610 m above sea level and represent the
most atypical longleaf pine forest com-
munity type classified (Peet 2006). These
stands, often called “montane,are most
common on southerly and southwesterly
slopes, with trees typically growing on
well-drained, rocky soils, and occur in
mixed pine (e.g., P. echinata Mill., P. taeda
L., and P. virginiana Mill.) and hardwood
(e.g., Quercus marilandica Münchh, Q.
stellata Wangenh) mesophytic forests
(Harper 1905; Maceina et al. 2000; Peet
2006). Here, we discuss an ecologically
rare and newly managed montane longleaf
pine forest in the Uwharrie Mountains of
central North Carolina.
Documentation regarding montane longleaf
pine communities is sparse, in part due to
the paucity of extant stands and, thus, our
understanding about these rare forests is
limited. Vegetation surveys (Maceina et al.
2000) and stand dynamics studies (Varner
et al. 2003; Stokes et al. 2010) have been
undertaken at montane longleaf pine stands
located within the Mountain Longleaf
National Wildlife Refuge near Anniston,
Alabama. Similarly, response to manage-
ment changes for both bird communities
(Kronenberger et al. 2014) and herbaceous
plants and grasses (Cipollini et al. 2012)
was studied at a remnant montane longleaf
pine stand owned by Berry College in Floyd
County, Georgia. A number of conference
proceedings, reports, and graduate theses
also exist that have documented various
aspects of these montane longleaf pine
forests, but again, with a focus on stands
in Alabama and Georgia.
To our knowledge, no formal inventory
regarding North Carolina’s mountainous
longleaf pine communities has occurred.
Wells (1974) mentions a stand of “about
20 canopy-height” longleaf pine with the
largest diameter at breast height (DBH)
values of 45 cm at an unspecified location in
the Uwharrie Mountains. Similarly, Bates
(2001) identifies a 17-ha “remnant” stand
of longleaf pine on “an unnamed mountain
north of Daniel Mountain” in the Uwhar-
Natural Areas Journal 36:153–161
R E S E A R C H A R T I C L E
2 Corresponding author: twpatter@uncg.
edu; (336) 334-5388
Observations on a
Rare Old-Growth
Montane Longleaf
Pine Forest in
Central North
Carolina, USA
Thomas W. Patterson1,2
1Carolina Tree-Ring Science Laboratory
Department of Geography
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
Paul A. Knapp1
154 Natural Areas Journal Volume 36 (2), 2016
rie National Forest (“Gold Mine Branch
Longleaf Pine Forest”), but did not provide
age/growth specifics. This latter longleaf
pine forest (hereafter known as Gold Mine
Branch) is well preserved and contains
seedling through old-growth individuals
approaching 300 years of age. Here we
discuss our observations following an in-
ventory of all longleaf pine trees within the
Gold Mine Branch forest. Specifically, we
report on the longleaf pine trees in terms of
(1) the geographic patterns of occurrence,
(2) age/height/diameter characteristics, and
(3) special features of this rare mountain-
ous population.
METHODS
Study Site
Gold Mine Branch Longleaf Pine Forest is
located in the 205 km2 Uwharrie National
Forest at 35.416 N, 80.036 W (Figure 1),
1 km west of the Uwharrie River and 14 km
northwest of the town of Troy, North Caro-
lina. Uwharrie Mountain geology consists
of weathered, Cambrian era interbedded
felsic and mafic metavolcanics extending
46 km between Randolph, Montgomery,
and Stanley counties (Rogers 1982; Daniel
and Butler 1996). These mountains range
from 150 to 335 m elevation, have up to
150 m of topographic prominence, and
support Piedmont and disjunct popula-
tions of mountain and coastal plain species
(Wells 1974; Bates 2001). The site was
identified in Bates’ (2001) Montgomery
County Natural Heritage Inventory as a
17-ha remnant Piedmont-longleaf forest.
Bates (2001) noted the presence of longleaf
pine on the steep south- to southwest-facing
slopes of an unnamed mountain north of
Daniel Mountain that is separated by the
perennial stream, Gold-Mine Branch. A
rocky substrate of Georgeville silt loam
dominates the site (Soil Survey Staff 2015),
Figure 1. Location of all live longleaf pine trees by size class at Gold Mine Branch in the Uwharrie National Forest. Size classes are as follows: (1) grass
stage, (2) juvenile/bottlebrush (i.e., individuals without lateral branch growth), (3) young adult (lateral branches present and DBH 10 cm but 20 cm, and
(4) mature (>20 cm DBH). Contour interval is 3 m.
Volume 36 (2), 2016 Natural Areas Journal 155
and slopes approach 25 (Rogers 1982).
Elevations at the top (266 m) and bottom
(134 m) of the Gold Mine Branch site rep-
resent 132 m of total vertical relief. Mean
annual precipitation for the region is 120
cm and is distributed evenly throughout
the year. Mean July (January) highs aver-
age 31 oC (10 oC), with maximum and
minimum temperatures of 39 oC and -9
oC (US Climate Data 2015 ).
Gold Mine Branch was purchased in 1944
from the Russell Family, who owned land in
the region for timber and mineral extraction
(D. Walker, US Forest Service, pers. comm.
2015). From 1944 to 1961, the land was
managed by the North Carolina Wildlife
Resource Commission, primarily for hunt-
ing and recreation, and thereafter by the
US Forest Service for similar purposes. The
site was listed as a Special Interest Man-
agement Area in 2012 for its botanic and
scenic characteristics (US Forest Service
2012). Prescribed fires were set in 2010
and 2013, and two wildfires are thought to
have occurred at the site in the late 1970s
and 1920s (D. Walker, pers. comm.). Nu-
merous (estimated 150–200) pine stumps
exist throughout the stand that were likely
cut during the early 20th century and
represent a significant disturbance event,
but we saw no evidence of previous naval
stores activity (i.e., box cuts or chevrons)
on either the stumps or live trees. Fire
scars occurred on approximately 7% of
the mature trees and almost exclusively
on the upslope side of the boles.
The canopy at Gold Mine Branch consists
of longleaf and shortleaf pine, along with
chestnut (Quercus montana Willd.), post,
and blackjack oaks. Other canopy species
include red maple (Acer rubrum L.) along
with mockernut (Carya tomentosa Lam.)
and pignut (C. glabra Mill.) hickories.
Understory vegetation includes muscadine
grape (Vitis rotundifolia Michx.), asters
(Pitysopsis graminifolia (Michx.) Nutt.,
Coreopsis verticillata L., Cunila origanoi-
des L.), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum
(L.) Kuhn), Goat’s rue (Tephrosia virgin-
iana (L.) Pers.), shrub species including
St. Andrew’s cross (Hypericum hypericoi-
des (L.) Crantz subsp. hypericoides), St.
John’s-wort (H. stragalum L.), Deerberry
(Vaccinium stamineum L.), Sparkleberry
(V. arboretum Marshall), and Horse sugar
(Symplocos tinctoria (L.) L’Hér.), and the
significantly rare Piedmont indigo bush
(Amorpha schwerinii C.K. Schneid.)
(Bates 2001).
Sampling Procedures
Field data were collected during Novem-
ber and December, 2014. Following an
initial site survey, we determined that the
Gold Mine Branch longleaf pine commu-
nity was characterized by higher-density
“core” and lower-density (often a single
tree) “periphery” populations and required
different sampling methods to document.
Within the core population, where multiple
trees were within 15 m of each other, we
marked 50-m-wide transects with flagging
and documented all live trees along a
vertical gradient. For live trees located in
the periphery (Figure 1), we walked along
east-west-running constant-elevation gradi-
ents from the westernmost to easternmost
sections of Gold Mine Branch at 50-m
elevation gradients, again marking intervals
with flagging. For each tree, we recorded
location using a Garmin 60CSx GPS unit
and classified individuals as follows: (1)
grass stage, (2) juvenile/bottlebrush (i.e.,
individuals without lateral branch growth),
(3) young adult (lateral branches present
and DBH 10 cm but 20 cm), and (4)
mature (>20 cm DBH).
All young adult and mature trees were
measured for DBH using diameter tape,
and canopy height was measured using a
Nikon Forestry 550 laser range finder. We
removed one increment core sample each
from 50 young adult and mature trees of
various diameters at approximately 0.3-m
height using a 5.15-mm Haglof increment
borer to determine tree age. Trees were
selected to represent a range of DBH
values and included all trees with visual
old-growth characteristics (smooth bark,
twisted boles, sparse and flat-topped crown
(Pederson 2010)) without external evidence
of heart rot. These tree-ring data were then
used to develop a predictive DBH/age
model for the remaining trees sampled.
Laboratory Procedures
We entered all longleaf pine locations in
ESRI ArcGIS 10.2 (ESRI 2013) for inven-
tory, mapping, and geospatial analysis.
Tree cores were air-dried and mounted
to wooden strips with wood glue, then
sanded with progressively finer sandpaper
(120, 220, 400 grit) until all annual growth
rings were visible. Age determination was
made by crossdating using the list method
(Yamaguchi 1991) for all cores dating to the
1850s. Tree-age at 0.3 m for samples dat-
ing pre-1850 was estimated by ring count
as the lack of cores prevented crossdating.
Thus, dating through 1850 is marked by
annual precision, whereas interior dates of
older trees may be imprecise because of
possible missing or false rings.
Upon core processing we determined that
approximately 14% of the sampled trees
contained heart rot, therefore a true age at
0.3 m could not be achieved as the interior
of the tree, including the pith, was absent.
These cores were removed from further
age/DBH analysis. Additionally, longleaf
pine can remain in the grass stage for up
to 20 years, all the while not producing
annual growth-rings (Pessin 1934). Thus,
our predictive DBH/age model produced
relative, as opposed to absolute, tree ages.
We used tree age at 0.3-m height from the
43 remaining cores to build the following
predictive model from trunk diameter:
Predicted tree age at 0.3 meters = β0 +
β1 DBH
Where β0 is the intercept of the regression
line and β1 dictates the slope. We could then
assign a predicted tree age at 0.3 m for the
remaining 245 young adult and mature
longleaf pine that were not cored.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Sample Size and Site Expansion
Our study identified 403 longleaf pines
growing at Gold Mine Branch, including
41 grass stage, 67 juvenile stage, 39 young
adult, and 256 mature trees. During our
data collection, we identified an additional
156 Natural Areas Journal Volume 36 (2), 2016
south-to-east-facing slope undocumented
in Bates’ survey (2001) that expanded the
site from 17 to 24 ha. The lowest elevation
tree was at 170 m and the highest was at
255 m, giving a total relief of the longleaf
stand of 85 m.
Height, Diameter, and Location
Median (maximum) tree height and trunk
diameter for all mature trees were 17 (25) m
and 38 (72) cm, respectively (Figure 2a and
b). Tree density ranged from 20 to 60/ha,
with a basal area of 2.2–4.5 m2/ha from
periphery to core areas. Approximately
one third of all longleaf pine at Gold Mine
Branch were growing on southwesterly
slopes, followed by 22% on northwesterly
slopes. No trees were located on northeast-
facing slopes. Only five trees were on
north slopes, and three trees were on east
slopes, cumulatively accounting for 2%
of all longleaf pine. We assessed whether
longleaf pine in the four stages of growth
were occurring throughout the site or were
limited to specific aspects. The majority
of longleaf pines in the grass and juvenile
stages were on northwest-facing slopes.
More young adult trees were on northwest
and southwest slopes, and mature trees
were predominantly found on southwest
and southeast slopes (Figure 3).
Relative Age
The predictive DBH/age model accounted
for approximately 27% (r2 = 0.265, P <
0.001) of age variance (Figure 4). The
model overestimated the youngest trees
by up to 40 years and underestimated the
oldest trees by over 100 years, suggesting
that DBH is a weak predictor of longleaf
pine age at Gold Mine Branch. Thus, our
ability to accurately assess relative age
based on the predictive age model is limited
and we refrain from further assessment
based on predicted age. Of the 50 samples
collected, only 43 trees were datable to
pith. Mean (median) relative age at 0.3
m was 116 (102), with seven (five) trees
exceeding 150 (200) years old (Figure 2c).
The age gap between the five oldest trees
dated >190 years and the next-oldest tree
dated at 159 years suggests nearly all trees
Figure 2. Histograms of frequency for (a) height and (b) trunk diameter for all young adult and ma-
ture trees (n = 295). Minimum age (c) for all young adult and mature trees based on a subsample of
43 trees.
Volume 36 (2), 2016 Natural Areas Journal 157
greater than approximately 50–60 years
old in the early 1900s were logged. Of the
documented old trees remaining, all had
marked bole deformations (e.g., twisted,
snapped top, leaning), suggesting that they
may have been of lesser harvestable value.
Additionally, at least two other longleaf
pine at the site have similar hallmarks
of multicentury age (>200 years, Figure
5a), but we were unable to obtain tree age
because of heart rot.
Special Features of Gold Mine Branch
(1) The oldest tree dated to pith at AD
1743 at 0.3 m height, and we estimated
its age to be over 270 years old. Similarly,
the next oldest tree had an innermost ring
that dated to 1761 at 0.3 m height before
heart rot. Accounting for heart rot and a
Figure 3. Compass plots of longleaf pine in the four growth stages. Note difference in scales for the number of trees on the vertical axis.
grass stage without ring development, we
estimate both trees could approach or ex-
ceed 300 years old. Based on the number
of longleaf pines >150 years old (Figure
2c), and the abundance of visually gnarled
hardwoods that co-occur throughout the
site, Gold Mine Branch is a rare, old-growth
montane longleaf forest and unique in areal
extent for North Carolina. Additionally,
throughout the site we identified remnant
longleaf pine stumps that were likely felled
before a time (pre-1950) of mechanized
saws during the Russell Family ownership.
These meter-high stumps are rich in resin
and susceptible to fire if not preserved. The
abundance of longleaf pine in the 80–120
age range, coupled with a presence of old
stumps, suggests an early 20th century
felling operation likely influenced by the
construction of railways in Montgomery
County in the 1890s for timber extraction
(Carriker 1992).
(2) The majority of grass-stage and juvenile
trees at Gold Mine Branch are growing on
northwest-facing slopes, while the majority
of young adult and mature trees are grow-
ing on southwest-facing slopes (Figures 3
and 5b). Why the distinction exists is un-
known, but suggests competitive exclusion,
changing environmental conditions, or a
combination of these has occurred since
the area was logged. The 2010 and 2013
fires may have contributed to the observed
spatial pattern as wildfires tend to burn hot-
ter on south-facing slopes (Heyerdahl et al.
2001), and juvenile longleaf fire mortality
(up to 80% ) is greater in mature stands due
to litter accumulation, resulting in hotter
burning fires (Grace and Platt 1995).
158 Natural Areas Journal Volume 36 (2), 2016
(3) Gold Mine Branch topography—locat-
ed along a 1.5-km-length east-west oriented
ridgeline with southerly aspect slopes—is
unmatched in areal extent in the Uwharrie
Mountains and provides extensive steep
terrain suitable for longleaf pine establish-
Figure 4. Scatterplots of the regression line of the predicted DBH/age model (top) and height and trunk diameter for all young adult and mature trees (bot-
tom).
ment. We posit that the extensiveness of the
montane longleaf pine forest at this location
is a result of the rare environmental condi-
tions in the Uwharrie Mountains that confer
a competitive advantage to this species in
an environment otherwise dominated by
other pine and hardwood species. Further,
the steep, boulder-strewn terrain may have
hindered the logging of all the trees, leav-
ing behind a population base sufficient for
species propagation.
Volume 36 (2), 2016 Natural Areas Journal 159
(4) A 2-ha stand of scattered montane
longleaf pine is located approximately 8 km
south of Gold Mine Branch (D. Walker, US
Forest Service, pers. comm. 2015). While
this remnant forest near Dennis Mountain
matches the description by Wells (1974)
of nearly two dozen mature longleaf pine
trees growing on south- and southwest-
Figure 5. (a) One of the authors posing with a “bonsai topped” old-growth longleaf pine, and (b) two juvenile and one young adult longleaf pine growing on
the northeast slope. All cored bonsai trees had interior dates in the 1700s.
facing slopes between 198 and 229 m,
we confirmed (Julie Moore, US Fish and
Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 2015) that
Wells (1974) was, in fact, writing about
Gold Mine Branch. No other stands of
montane longleaf pine forest exist in the
Uwharrie Mountains that match the spatial
and topographical extent of Gold Mine
Branch.
CONCLUSIONS
We suggest that Gold Mine Branch should
be classified as a montane longleaf pine
forest. Bates (2001) identifies the stand
as a “Piedmont Longleaf Pine Forest”
—nomenclature consistent with the North
Carolina Natural Heritage Program (Scha-
160 Natural Areas Journal Volume 36 (2), 2016
fale 2012) that includes inland longleaf
pine forests of the undulating topography
of central North Carolina (Moore and
Fogo, a paper presented in the 3rd Mon-
tane Longleaf Pine Conference, Auburn,
Alabama, 2008). That said, montane is
geographically descriptive and several
significant environmental differences war-
ranting distinction exist between Gold
Mine Branch and the surrounding Pied-
mont longleaf pine forests. The Uwharrie
Mountains are classified as a physiographic
subprovince of the Piedmont region marked
by “sharp relief” (Hack 1982). The steep
and principally south-facing terrain of Gold
Mine Branch likely produces a different
temperature regime than flatter landscapes,
with significant differences in maximum
daily temperatures based on aspect and
daily minimum temperatures related to
slope position (Bolstad et al. 1998). Rates
of evapotranspiration are higher on south-
facing slopes than flatter terrain (Holland
and Steyn 1975; Countryman 1978), and
soil-moisture regimes are impacted (e.g.,
Countryman 1978). Fire regimes in moun-
tainous areas are different as fires travel
faster upslope (Butler et al. 2007) and may
be hotter on south- versus north-facing
slopes (Rothermel 1972; Heyerdahl et al.
2001). Finally, trapped forest duff and litter
on the upslope side of trees allows fires to
burn hotter than elsewhere (Arno and Sneck
1977) and is consistent with the location
of fire scars found almost exclusively on
the upslope side of mature longleaf pines
at Gold Mine Branch.
Our inventory recorded most and, perhaps,
all the live longleaf pines at Gold Mine
Branch, excluding seedlings, and this
documentation provides benchmark data
for the Uwharrie National Forest Service
and future ecological studies at the site. The
2012 Uwharrie National Forest Manage-
ment Plan places emphasis on reforesting
longleaf pine throughout the forest and has
placed Gold Mine Branch under Special
Interest Management, where limitations
to thinning and burning are prescribed to
enhance the site’s properties (US Forest
Service 2012). It is our hope that these
findings may help in better understand-
ing the effects of ongoing management
practices at Gold Mine Branch.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We are grateful for the assistance of many
individuals who offered insights, field
assistance, and technical support. Specifi-
cally, we thank Nell Allen, Moni Bates,
Boon Chesson, Laura Fogo, Doug Gold-
man, Anna Levi, Julie Moore, Selima Sul-
tana, Deborah Walker, and Keith Watkins.
Additionally, we thank two anonymous
reviewers for their help in improving this
manuscript. This research was supported in
part by the National Science Foundation,
Grant No. DGE0947982.
Thomas Patterson is a PhD candidate in
the Carolina Tree-Ring Science Labora-
tory, Department of Geography at the Uni-
versity of North Carolina at Greensboro.
His research interests have focused on
dendroecological applications in longleaf
pine forests.
Paul Knapp is a professor and director of
the Carolina Tree-Ring Science Laboratory
in the Department of Geography at the Uni-
versity of North Carolina at Greensboro.
His interests have principally focused on
the paleoecological dynamics of western
North American forests.
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... Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) serve as useful proxy for reconstructing hydroclimate conditions including drought (Ortegren 2008), tropical cyclone precipitation (Knapp et al. 2016), and streamflow (Harley et al. 2016). Longleaf pine is principally represented in coastal plain environments, while few stands of longleaf pine exist at its interior range limit leading into the Appalachian Mountains foothills (Peet 2007). ...
... Longleaf pine is principally represented in coastal plain environments, while few stands of longleaf pine exist at its interior range limit leading into the Appalachian Mountains foothills (Peet 2007). At these mountainous (hereafter montane) sites, longleaf pine grow on steep, rocky, south-and southwest-facing slopes (Patterson & Knapp 2016). In central North Carolina's Uwharrie Mountains, Mitchell et al. (2019) reported a strong relationship between monthly precipitation and latewood growth that exceeds previously reported values throughout much of the species' range (Meldahl et al. 1999, Foster & Brooks 2001, Henderson & Grissino-Mayer 2009), yet attribution to either specific event types or possibilities for reconstructing precipitation were not explored. ...
... Attribution to specific precipitation event types using latewood widths has been successfully shown for the North American Monsoon in southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico (Griffin et al. 2013) and tropical cyclone precipitation in the southeastern USA (Knapp et al. 2016). Here, our results have ecological and climatological implications as variations in latewood growth were better explained by either SFP or QSP events in comparison to all summer precipitation event types combined, suggesting an unequal influence of precipitation type during latewood formation. ...
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We examined short- and long-term changes in precipitation event types using instrumental (1940–2018) and tree-ring (1790–2018) data from North Carolina, USA. We documented the amount and frequency of summer (July–September) precipitation events using daily weather station data. Stationary front precipitation (SFP) represented 71% of total summer rainfall and SFP and convective uplift combined (i.e., quasi-stationary precipitation, QSP) represented 87%. SFP ( r = 0.52, p < 0.01) and QSP ( r = 0.61, p < 0.01) precipitation reconstructions from a montane longleaf pine latewood chronology both recorded significant declines during 1940–2018, matching the instrumental record. Conversely, no significant change in either SFP or QSP occured during the full reconstruction indicating the instrumental decline was unmatched throughout 1790–1939. Our method demonstrates that variations in latewood growth can be attributed to specific precipitation event types and that the relative contribution of each event type can be quantified over a multi-century period.
... 3), and most typically contain several upland oaks as co-dominants (usually chestnut oak and blackjack oak (Q. marilandica)) (Stokes et al. 2010, Patterson andKnapp 2016). The grassy herbaceous layers of these eastern Piedmont pine woodlands are usually not as well-developed as those found in longleaf savannas in the Coastal Plain, and a denser shrub layer is often present. ...
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The Piedmont (PDMT) ecoregion of the USA stretches from New Jersey to Alabama, nestled between the Coastal Plain and Blue Ridge Mountain physiographic provinces. Many of the notable Piedmont plant communities, including the dominant oak-hickory forests of the region, are reliant upon fire to some degree. Before human settlement, most Piedmont vegetation burned relatively frequently and at low intensities, resulting in extensive closed canopy oak-hickory forests, studded with patches of open woodland and savanna largely defined by unusual soil conditions. Indigenous peoples of the Piedmont used fire as a land management tool for both agriculture and game production. Historical changes in land use throughout the region have altered fire regimes and changed forest dynamics dramatically over the past 400 years. Euro-American settlement led to widespread clearing of land for agriculture and logging; by the early twentieth century, very little old-growth forest remained in the Piedmont. During the mid-twentieth century, the decline of agriculture and the aggressive suppression and exclusion of wildfires brought about the growth of successional forests in the place of older, fire-mediated communities. The Piedmont region is currently experiencing a rapid expansion of the human population and land development, making restoration of the historical fire regime a challenge. However, land managers frequently do use prescribed fire to enhance timberland and restore rare plant communities.
... They are disjunct from coastal plain longleaf pine communities and are more limited in distribution (Edwards et al., 2013). They are threatened by fire suppression and resulting hardwood encroachment, conversion to pine plantations, urban sprawl, and catastrophic fires from heavy fuel loading (Edwards et al., 2013;Patterson and Knapp, 2016), and are subsequently considered imperiled (G2 ranking; Natureserve, 2019). Therefore, restoration of montane longleaf pine ecosystems is a high conservation priority throughout much of the southeastern United States (Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 2015;America's Longleaf, 2009;Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 2015). ...
... Radial growth of longleaf pine has been ascribed to high precipitation and high temperature, whereas their locations are more ascribed to lowland sandy soils ( Henderson and Grissino-Mayer 2009 ). Also, mature longleaf pine stands were found to grow on the south and southwestern facing slopes ( Patterson and Knapp 2016 ). Therefore slope, aspect, temperature, and precipitation were used as a topographic variable in the study. ...
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Several initiatives are promoting longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) restoration in the Southern United States for conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), landowners plant longleaf pine on farmlands and pasturelands in exchange for annual payments and other financial incentives. While the introduction of this program was an important step towards longleaf pine restoration, there exists a necessity to understand how the decisions of landowners to enroll in CRP are manifested over space. An understanding about the role of a range of factors on the spatial density of longleaf pine plantations enrolled under CRP would help in prioritizing locations for longleaf pine plantations, thereby increasing the efficacy of conservation-related resources. We evaluate the effects of socioeconomic, topographic, and distance variables on the spatial density of longleaf plantations enrolled under CRP using clustered point process model in Georgia, a state with 47% of the total acreage under CRP-supported longleaf plantations. Only 30% of the current longleaf pine locations under CRP were within the Significant Geographic Area. About 86% of current longleaf plantations under CRP are present on former croplands and pasturelands. The spatial density of longleaf pine plantations is negatively associated with the distance from cropland and pastureland and positively associated with land capability classes, and distance from the sawmills. Longleaf pine restoration efforts should focus on those croplands or pasturelands which are closer to existing CRP-supported plantations, located on lower soil capability classes, and are far from wood consuming mills. Our study would support current programs that are supporting longleaf pine restoration in the Southern United States.
... They are disjunct from coastal plain longleaf pine communities and are more limited in distribution (Edwards et al., 2013). They are threatened by fire suppression and resulting hardwood encroachment, conversion to pine plantations, urban sprawl, and catastrophic fires from heavy fuel loading (Edwards et al., 2013;Patterson and Knapp, 2016), and are subsequently considered imperiled (G2 ranking; Natureserve, 2019). Therefore, restoration of montane longleaf pine ecosystems is a high conservation priority throughout much of the southeastern United States (Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 2015;America's Longleaf, 2009;Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 2015). ...
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Fire suppression and hardwood encroachment are two of the most significant threats to the imperiled, fire-dependent montane longleaf pine ecosystem. We examined the effects of restoration of a montane longleaf pine forest in Paulding County, Georgia, U.S.A. on tree canopy, groundcover and bird communities over a decade. The restoration included a program of prescribed fire and selective thinning to reduce tree canopy density and reduce or remove offsite species. Several conservation goals were met including the recovery of characteristic tree composition and groundcover. Birds responded with sharp increases in richness and abundance, with many shrub and woodland dependent species of high conservation value detected post-restoration. Our research demonstrates these sites are easily restorable and such projects will likely yield significant gains for conservation.
... Perhaps the most endangered longleaf system is the mountain, or montane, longleaf ecosystem (Stowe et al. 2002), much of which is listed as a globally endangered or a globally threatened ecosystem (Natureserve 2017), and which is often overlooked or at best lumped in with other ecosystems by conservation planners (Outcalt and Sheffield 1996;Noss et al. 1995). Montane longleaf occupies mountainous portions of the North Carolina Piedmont and northeastern Alabama and west-central Georgia's Ridge and Valley, Piedmont, Appalachian, and Cumberland Plateau physiographic provinces (Edwards et al. 2013;Patterson and Knapp 2016). Though this ecosystem is dominated by longleaf pine, many of the plant and animal species and species assemblages differ from longleaf pine ecosystems of the coastal plain by including elements from systems to the north, particularly the Southern Blue Ridge (Harper 1903;Jones 1974;Floyd 2008). ...
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Montane longleaf pine forests, woodlands, and savannas are endangered, fire-dependent ecosystems of the Piedmont, Ridge and Valley, Appalachian, and Cumberland Plateau physiographic provinces of Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina. Compared to other longleaf pine ecosystems, e.g., longleaf pine-wiregrass, little has been published about montane longleaf pine ecosystems. Understanding the historic fire regimes that once maintained montane longleaf pine ecosystems is an important first step toward achieving restoration and conservation goals for this ecosystem. I used two approaches to investigate historic fire regimes: 1) a dendrochronological study of fire scars on Sprewell Bluff Wildlife Management Area and 2) calculations of the average fire tolerance of tree species recorded on 1820s land lottery maps and 2005 surveys. Three distinct periods of fire history were revealed: pre-1840, with an average fire interval of 2.6 years; 1840-1915, with an average fire interval of 1.2 years; and 1915-present, with an average fire interval of 11.4 years. Season of fire differed between periods with all seasons of fire common prior to 1840, mostly winter fires from 1840 to 1915, and mostly spring and early summer fires from 1915 to the present. Land lottery data suggested montane longleaf ecosystems of the 1820s were most similar in fire tolerance to areas of longleaf-wiregrass, as compared to several other historic Georgia forest types. Modern forests had much lower scores of fire tolerance. Differences in species composition accounted for these changes in scores; historic montane longleaf ecosystems had larger components of pine (Pinus spp.), post oak (Quercus stellate Wangenh.), and blackjack oak (Q. marilandica Muenchh.), while modern forests had higher densities of chestnut oak (Q. prinus Willd.) and hickory (Carya spp.). My results suggest a fire return interval of two to three years is needed to halt the continued loss of the montane longleaf pine ecosystem.
Article
For more than a century, tree-ring research has identified relationships between climatic and ecological conditions and tree growth to describe past environments and constrain future ecosystem vulnerabilities. Tree-ring records are frequently used as environmental proxies that extend knowledge of past climate and ecology on millennial scales. Many of the most pressing global change questions facing North America concern the rate of climate change and vulnerability of ecosystems and society along the coast. The opportunities and applications in dendrochronology continue to grow with advancing methodologies, faster computational ability, and the cost-reduction of many chemical and anatomical analyses. Here, we propose that many pressing global change questions that affect coastal communities can be addressed using dendrochronological techniques. We review coastal tree-ring studies that demonstrate the utility and potential for future tree-ring studies in the northeastern, southeastern, northwestern, and southwestern North American coasts. Additionally, we show that tree-ring chronologies along the coast give insight into local and regional climate phenomena that are distinct from nearby, inland tree-ring chronologies of the same species. Lastly, we identify opportunities for coastal dendrochronology and encourage the collection of more tree-ring records that are directly impacted by coastal phenomena.
Article
Longleaf pine is a super-producing species where 16.4 percent of all trees produce 31.6 percent of all annual cones. • Super producers were indistinguishable based on trunk diameter and their masting coefficient of variation. • Super producers masted equally during masting and non-masting years. Abstract: Longleaf pine is a keystone species of the southeastern US that is undergoing restoration due to centuries of deforestation, fire suppression, and land-use changes. One important feature of longleaf pine is its episodic nature of cone production that is required for successful regeneration. To learn more about individual-tree dynamics of longleaf pine cone production, this study investigates the concept of "super producers"—a small number of individuals that produce a disproportionally large volume of annual seed crop compared to standard producers. I examined a 29-year cone-production dataset provided by the U.S. Forest Service that contained 234 longleaf pine trees from 18 sites throughout the Southeast. I found super-producing individuals at each site and these trees comprised 16.4 percent of all trees that were able to produce 31.6 percent of all cones in the dataset. Super producers were largely indistinguishable from standard producers based on trunk diameter, yet they were able to produce large cone crops when standard producers could not. The results of this study reveal a new understanding of the substantial variability of cone production at the individual-tree level that should be considered when managing regeneration efforts.
Article
Key message Montane longleaf pine tree-ring chronologies exhibit fidelity to summer soil-moisture conditions. Multi-century climate reconstructions using longleaf pine can provide insights into the natural range of moisture variability. Abstract Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ring width is associated with temperature and precipitation throughout its range, yet intrasite comparisons of climate and ring growth are limited and have not examined interior (i.e., montane vs. piedmont) populations. Here, we investigated remnant stands of montane and piedmont longleaf pine in central North Carolina and compared their sensitivity to summer climatic variables during 1935–2015. Summer precipitation and PDSI were better associated with tree-ring chronologies developed from latewood growth from both the montane (r = 0.429 PDSI, r = 0.563 precipitation) and piedmont (r = 0.252, r = 0.441) chronologies while correlations with temperature variables were either weak (r = − 0.249 maximum temperature montane, r = − 0.229 piedmont) or not significant. We examined longleaf pine latewood sensitivity to late-summer (July–September) climate conditions, drought detection, and differences in radial growth during drought and non-drought periods and found greater sensitivity of the montane chronology to these metrics. Specifically, the montane chronology was more sensitive to drought detection identifying all 11 droughts that occurred during the 81-year study period, while the piedmont chronology identified only 6 of the 11. Further, while significant differences in radial growth existed between drought and non-drought years for both chronologies, the montane chronology exhibited considerably greater growth range between these favorable and unfavorable periods. These results indicate the use of montane longleaf pine is preferable when reconstructing precipitation variability and when coupled with remnant stump data provide an opportunity to reconstruct summer climate variability.
Article
A year long survey in 1995 provided an overview of the vegetation of a 25.5 ha montane longleaf pine tract on Fort McClellan, a United States Army Post adjacent to Anniston, Alabama. The location in northeast Alabama is close to the elevational limit of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Military maneuvers caused a fire presence to be maintained over time, resulting in the maintenance of this rare peripheral system. However, fire presence had declined from historic frequency, and the forest type was changing from a longleaf pine to a mixed pine-hardwood type. The vegetational survey added to baseline data on the tree components of the tract. The survey identified 146 vascular plant species from 53 families.
Article
A STUDY OF THE TOPOGRAPHY AND OTHER SURFACE FEATURES OF THEPIEDMONT AND BLUE RIDGE REGION IN SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES IS PRESENTED AS RELATED TO LATE TECTONIC HISTORY. IN THE DISCUSSION OF THE REGION THAT CAN BE DIVIDED INTO AT LEAST SIX BROAD SUBREGIONS THE AUTHOR ASSUMES THAT DIFFERENCES IN RELIEF FROM PLACE TO PLACE MAY BE THE RESULT OF DIFFERENCES INROCK RESISTANCE. ON THE OTHER HAND, DIFFERENCES IN RELIEF MAY BE DUE TO DIFFERENT RATES OR DIFFERENT HISTORIES OF TECTONIC UPLIFT. HOWEVER, IT IS ASSUMED THAT ALL HIGH-RELIEF FEATURES MUST BE POSTOROGENIC, THAT IS, MESOZOIC OR CENOZOIC. FURTHERMORE, AREAS HAVING DIFFERENCES IN RELIEF MUST HAVE HAD DIFFERENT TECTONIC HISTORIES.
Article
The radiant energy income of a slope influences its ambient temperatures and water movements, both of which are important controls on the growth behaviour, species composition and structure of its vegetation cover. Therefore, information about the radiation environments of topographically diverse areas should provide a basis for predicting the likelihood of local variations in vegetation composition and structure. From a simple model of the annual shortwave energy load of slopes of different angle and compass orientation we predict that aspect effects should be greatest at 45⚬ N/S and least in equatorial and polar regions. Other predictions concern likely physiological responses of plants to varying slope angle over the range of latitude. A literature review shows good agreement between these physically based predictions and observations of vegetation patterns in a geographically wide range of countries.
Article
Over the last century, logging, land conversion, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystems to a small fraction of their original range. Fire suppression, in particular, has facilitated encroachment by non-fire-tolerant trees and heavy litter buildup, leading to shifts in the native plant and animal community. In 2001, efforts were initiated to re-establish parts of Berry College's (Floyd County, GA) fire-suppressed mountain longleaf pine forest using combinations of prescribed fire, clear-cutting, planting, and herbicide application. We designed this study to determine the effects of management practices thus far on vegetation structure and the bird community. In 2009, vegetation structure data were collected in longleaf pine stands comprising three management classes ranging from low-to high-intensity management. Bird surveys were conducted from summer 2009 to spring 2010, and avifaunal community structure was related to vegetative characteristics within each stand. Unmanaged stands were strongly associated with common omnivorous, ground-foraging, and canopy-nesting birds of mixed woodlands. Intermediately managed stands contained mostly birds of mixed diet and aerial-and bark-feeding cavity nesters. Heavily managed stands were strongly associated with insect-, vertebrate-, seed-, and fruit-eating ground and shrub nesters, with several sightings of the near-threatened Bachman's sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis Lichtenstein). Intensity of management was positively correlated with canopy openness, understory development, and low litter levels. These vegetative differences helped explain the bird community makeup. We provide baseline data for assessing the impacts of management of mountain longleaf pine and similarly fire-suppressed forests on avian abundance and species richness.
Article
The Berry College Longleaf Pine Management Area consists of old-growth fire-suppressed mountain Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) stands embedded within an encroaching matrix of mixed pines and hardwoods. Since 2001, portions of this area have been subjected to restoration efforts involving logging followed by burning, foliar herbicide application, and planting, as well as burning and hardwood control using herbicides in unlogged old-growth stands. To document the herbaceous plants and grasses of this site and to begin to address questions concerning the short-term impacts of management practices on these species, flowering specimens were systematically collected in managed and unmanaged stands in 2008 and 2009. We recorded 201 species in 35 families, including 70 species of Asteraceae, 35 species of Poaceae, 17 species of Fabaceae, and 10 grass-like species other than Poaceae (Cyperaceae, Iridaceae, and Juncaceae). Native herbaceous plants most commonly found included: Houstonia caerulea, Hypoxis hirsuta, Solidago odora, Oxalis stricta, Coreopsis major, Hypericum hypericoides, Lespedeza procumbens, Hieracium venosum, and Packera paupercula. While only 14 species were found in unmanaged old growth, 127 were found in managed old growth, and 167 in logged areas. Fire suppressed old-growth mountain Longleaf Pine forests are generally virtually devoid of understory plant diversity; these results suggest that reduction in canopy density and leaf litter can substantially recover herbaceous and grass species diversity. However, the extent to which understory diversity can be fully recovered in any specific site remains in question, particularly if local propagule sources have vanished during the period of fire suppression. A comparison with historical species lists at our site, and with other mountain Longleaf Pine forests in various stages of fire maintenance, is presented to help define characteristic understory species for mountain Longleaf Pine forests.