Longleaf pine ecosystems used to stretch vast areas of the United States, however, it is now considered a highly endangered ecosystem. Longleaf pine ecosystems are characterized as being fire-dependent, relying on bunch grasses and a diverse understory of herbaceous species to promote the proper fire regime. Many of these species require frequent fires in order to germinate their seeds, as well as to keep undesired species from overtaking the native ecosystem vegetation.
In our area of interest at the Camden Battlefield and Longleaf Pine Preserve, there is a distinct lack of the needed fire behaviors and proper understory makeup. This has led to an increase in non-fire dependent species (ex. Hardwoods such as oaks and hickories) that compete with the desired Longleaf pine canopy.
As part of efforts to restore the area, a thinning in 2018 was performed to remove the undesired hardwoods and open the canopy to the desired longleaf pines. More recently, in March of 2020, a controlled burn was applied to the area to not only improve the makeup and diversity of the understory, but to help limit the reemergence of the undesired hardwoods.
Through these restoration efforts, it is hypothesized that not only will there be a marked improvement in understory diversity, but also an increase in available nutrients for desired species.