Black River Cypress Preserve’s Longleaf Pine Restoration Project
Restoration is underway to bring back longleaf pine in the uplands on the Black River Cypress Preserve, just beyond the flowing tributaries and bottomland floodplain forests of the Black River. The longleaf pine ecosystem, which stretches from southern Virginia to Texas, was once 90 million acres, but now because of changes in land use, fire suppression, invasive species, and other threats, it is now less than three percent of its historic range. It’s the most biologically diverse ecosystem in North America. Still, many wildlife and plant species are at risk, which is just one reason why restoration of these forests is critical.
As part of the restoration process at the Cypress Preserve, the loblolly pines were thinned several years ago. Hurricane Matthew provided additional thinning. This created space for underplanting the forest with longleaf pine seedlings and allowed sunlight to reach the forest floor, which encourages groundcover and provides habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and grassland birds.
Reintroducing prescribed fire was another vital aspect of the restoration. Longleaf pine forests are fire-adapted and have coexisted with fire for millennia. Many plants in the ecosystem require fire to germinate. Historically, fires sparked by lightning cleared the underbrush, returning nutrients to the soil, and encouraging beneficial plants to grow.
For more information on longleaf pine and restoration projects, contact Lisa Lord, Conservation Programs Director at The Longleaf Alliance.