Prognosis for the Future

Prognosis for the Future

Since the early 1990s the decline of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem has slowed or been reversed in some areas by a variety of means. Ecosystem management has been adopted on much of the public and private conservation lands that continue to support the Longleaf Pine ecosystem. There has been a tremendous amount of new research and adaptive management that has led to much better understanding of how to reforest, restore and manage the Longleaf Pine ecosystem for multiple uses.

Fire has been recognized and used as a critical management tool for maintaining and restoring the Longleaf Pine ecosystem. Prescribed burns are now used successfully by many land managing agencies in ways that mimic natural fires. Public recognition of the significance of natural lands in the region have helped allow land conservation programs such as Florida Forever to bring significant new lands into conservation ownership and management. In the 1990s populations of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker were stabilized, and they have increased in some areas while unfortunately continuing to decline in others Markets have improved for Longleaf Pine ecosystem products, such as hunting leases, poles and pilings, and pine straw. This has encouraged more planting of new Longleaf Pine stands on sites that historically supported it.

The conversion of undeveloped land to residential and commercial uses is one of the biggest threats to the Longleaf Pine ecosystem. As the population of people grows, traffic increases and more roads are planned and built. Conservation lands which become surrounded by development; are very difficult to manage with prescribed fire. Smoke management for air quality, health and safety becomes more difficult. Because of this, the costs of managing land for conservation increase.

Invasive plants are another threat to conservation lands throughout the southeast United States. Cogon grass is a non-native grass which is considered to be one of the world’s 10 worst weeds. It invades pinelands and forms thick stands, which replace the natural diversity of grasses and other herbaceous plants. Cogon grass burns very intensely, killing pine trees. It is very difficult to control, and is easily spread in soil on forestry and road equipment. Large areas dominated with Cogon grass lose value as forestry or conservation land.

A Conservation Success Story – Gulf Coast Ecosystem Partnership

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