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Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): Kenneth W. Outcalt
Compiler(s): John S. Kush
Publication Date: 2005

Longleaf communities of the middle and upper Gulf Coastal Plain historically had an overstory dominated by longleaf pine with pockets of other southern pines and occasional hardwoods, while the understory was grass dominated with lesser amounts of woody shrubs. The open grassy understory was maintained by frequent, every 2 to 5 years, low intensity fires. A period of fire control allowed hardwoods to increase in the mid and overstory layers while woody shrubs gained understory dominance. The objective of this research project was to develop realistic management options that can be used to restore this ecosystem. Research was conducted in cooperation with Auburn University at the Solon Dixon Forestry and Education Center near Andalusia, Alabama. Treatments included an untreated control (no fire or other disturbance), prescribed fire only, mechanical removal of selected trees, and a combination mechanical removal of trees and prescribed fire. The mechanical thinning treatment targeted other pines and hardwoods, reducing their basal area by 60 percent. Although there was not a large change in either relative composition or diameter distributions, a more open stand with fewer small hardwoods was created. The redistribution of logging slash facilitated prescribed burning just 2 months after the thinning operation. The cover of understory shrubs was reduced by both thinning and burning with the combination treatment the most effective. Burning caused the greatest reduction in understory hardwoods while thinning alone was less effective. For larger midstory hardwoods, however, burning alone resulted in no change while thinning reduced their density significantly. Thus, fire is needed to control understory hardwoods while thinning is needed to reduce larger midstory hardwoods. Therefore, the combination treatment may be the quickest treatment for restoring structure and composition to this ecosystem.

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Link to this document (168 KB; full text; pdf)
Citation: Outcalt, Kenneth W. 2005. Restoring structure and composition of longleaf pine ecosystems of the gulf coastal plains. Pages 97-100 In: Kush, J.S. (Comp.), Proceedings of the 5th Longleaf Alliance Regional Conference, October 12-15, 2004, Hattiesburg, MS. Longleaf Alliance Report No. 8.

Cataloging Information

  • Alabama
  • FFS - Fire and Fire Surrogate Study
  • longleaf pine
  • Pinus palustris
  • thinning
  • vegetation
JFSP Project Number(s):
  • 99-S-01
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 158