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A geographic assessment of patterns in longleaf pine forest structure across natural community types in Florida

Authors: Nicole Zampieri*, Florida State University Department of Geography, Stephanie Pau, Florida State University Department of Geography
Topics: Biogeography, Environmental Science
Keywords: biogeography, population dynamics, tree density, pinus palustris, savanna
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem of the North American Coastal Plain (NACP) is a global biodiversity hotspot. The range of longleaf pine has been reduced to <4% of its historic extent, and over 50% of the remaining longleaf pine are found in Florida. Longleaf pines are dominant in 5 natural community types in Florida, which differ in their substrate, hydrology, fire regime, community composition, and canopy structure. The structure and growth of longleaf pines in the different community types depends on the unique interplay between these abiotic and biotic components. Existing demographic and structural assessments of longleaf pine forests have largely focused on old-growth sites, which are important, but are not representative of the greater range of longleaf pine which is second growth. In this study, we investigate the patterns in longleaf pine forest structure (density, size structure, age distribution, and recruitment) and how growth rates differ (e.g., size-age relationships) across all 5 natural community types at 22 reference sites of mostly second-growth forests using field surveys of demographic data, tree cores, and species composition data. Clearly identifying structural components of these second-growth reference sites will aid in refining conservation and restoration goals. In addition, these secondary forests should be described and recognized as significant sites for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Lastly, understanding what conditions lead to the patterns of growth within and across trees, along a latitudinal gradient, and across natural communities will advance our understanding of the species vulnerability and resilience to climate change.

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