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Shortleaf Pine an Important Component to NJ’s Forests

This past week NJ Audubon’s Stewardship Department presented an overview of the Bobwhite Quail Restoration InitiativePA060002 and the project’s tie in with the National Shortleaf Pine Initiative at the 4th Biennial Shortleaf Pine Conference in Galloway, NJ.

According to the 2016 Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan, “Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinate) has the largest geographic extent of the southern yellow pines, occurring in 22 states in the US.  However, extensive logging, subsistence farming, the loss of open range grazing of livestock, and a lack of appropriate disturbance for subsequent regeneration have contributed to a 53% decline in its range since 1980.

In New Jersey, which is its most northern and eastern limits of its range, shortleaf pine does occur in 13 of the 21 counties, but it is a more a common component in the NJ Pine Barrens region in the southern part of the state. Making up only 2% of all pines in NJ (2015 FIA Data), the “two-needle pine” or “smooth-bark pine” defines the shortleaf’ s physical characteristics from its more common associate in the Pinelands, the pitch pine (Pinus rigida).

P3300084As fire plays a key role in the Pinelands ecosystem, helping to maintaining forest structure and diversity, the shortleaf benefits from this periodic disturbance because of its fire-adapted traits.   These traits include seedlings and saplings having the capacity to re-sprout when top-killed by fire due to axillary buds located in a basal J-shaped crook near the ground surface, a unique feature of the species (Mattoon 1915a).  Shortleaf pine also has a thick platy bark and minimal quantities of resin protect older trees from fire, as well as the tree produces abundant seed crops and persistent cones allowing for regeneration soon after fire (Mattoon 1915a). 

The open woodland structure of shortleaf pine ecosystems provides important habitat for wildlife, including Northern Bobwhite.  Since shortleaf pine woodlands typically have a lower canopy cover and a more diverse understory dominated by grasses and forbs, a greater numbers of bird and animal species are found within them (Masters 2007) as compared to pine-oak forests.

For more information about shortleaf pine and Forest Stewardship in NJ see the New Jersey Forest Service.

Photo by John Parke

References:

Anderson, M., Hayes, L., Keyser, P., Lituma, C., Sutter, R., Zollner, D., 2016. Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan: Restoring an American Forest Legacy. Shortleaf Pine Initiative

Masters, R.E. 2007. The importance of shortleaf pine for wildlife and diversity in mixed oak-pine forests and in pine-grassland woodlands.  In J.M. Kabrick, D.C. Dey, and D. Gwaze, editors. Shortleaf pine restoration and ecology in the Ozarks: proceeding of a symposium. Gen Tech. rep. NRS-P-15. Newton square, PA: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern research station. 2155 p.

Mattoon, W.R. 1915a. Life history of the shortleaf pine. Bulletin of the US Department of Agriculture. No 244, 46 p.

NJ Forest Service, 2015, Shortleaf Pine Initiative Fact Sheet

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