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Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Restoration Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working to revive a natural ecosystem that was once native to the land surrounding the Allatoona Lake. However, due to farming on the land prior to creation of the lake, the longleaf pine ecosystem was transformed to a forest of more aggressive Loblolly and Virginia pines. Longleaf pine offers more benefits to wildlife and, in fact, offers such diversity that it serves as host to unique communities of plants and wildlife.  Corps of Engineers personnel will remove the competing pines and recreate the natural ecosystem through replanting and emulating wildfire.  This undertaking will take place on the Allatoona Wildlife Management Area in Cherokee County near the border of Bartow County.

The project area is located on the northern shore of  Allatoona in Cherokee County near the Bartow County line.It encompasses approximately 300 acres. The area is part of the Allatoona Wildlife Management Area. The main objective of the project is to restore Longleaf pine habitat through forest restoration and by emulating wildfire.

 Historically Longleaf pine was well represented in the southeast occurring as a climatic climax species on many dry sites. Longleaf pine had an original range of approximately 95 million acres.  It now exists on approximately 2.5 million acres. Longleaf ecosystems thrive in regularly burned areas.  Underburns are required every 2-5 years to maintain the forest. As a result, the understory will continually regenerate with early seral species. Without wildfires, late seral species grow up among the early seral dominants resulting in over-stocked stands, insect infestation and disease, elevated fuel loads, and a proportional loss of early seral cover types. Early seral forests provide great stopover habitat for Neotropical migratory birds.

The project area was once host to a nearby Native American settlement.  The area was likely burned regularly to provide browse for wildlife and openings to facilitate shrub growth. Early settlers cleared the land and established farming communities.  Evidence of house sites can still be seen today. Settlers interrupted the fire regime on the site and removed a thriving Longleaf pine ecosystem to make room for more crops. Longleaf pine is a poor competitor; therefore it struggles to regenerate naturally without wildfire or other external influence. This site still has remnant Longleaf in the forest today, showing that it had to have been around before the site was disturbed. The Corps will attempt to return this site to its original state through clear cutting, replanting, herbicide treatments, and emulating wildfire.

During the project competing pines will be removed, while mature hardwoods will remain. The site will be treated with herbicide and Longleaf Pines will be planted on a wide spacing to mimic their natural state. Wildfire will be emulated through frequent prescribed fires. There are several benefits expected from the project including an increase of the land base in Longleaf Pine habitat, increased browse production, increased forest health, increase in pine savannah grasslands, and a gradual return of the site to its original state prior to human disturbance.

 

Identifying Characteristics  
Size/Form  Longleaf Pine is a medium to large tree that reaches a height of 80' to 100' tall. The crown is characterized by the "basketball-shaped" tufts of needles at the end of stout twigs.  
 Leaves The needles are borne in sheathed fascicles of three and are persistent for about two years. The dark green needles are 8" to 18" long.
 Fruit The fruit is a pendent woody cone that is 6" to 10" long. It is dull gray-brown and matures in two years. At the tip of the scales is a small prickle that bends towards the base of the cone.
 Bark The bark is thick, reddish-brown, and scaly.
 Habitat Longleaf Pine grows in open to moderately dense stands of pine with various grasses and shrubs in the understory. It is most commonly found on well-drained soils.