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Growth, proportion, and distribution pattern of longleaf pine across southeastern forests and disturbance types: A change assessment for the period 1997-2018

, , Wubishet Tadesse
Published: 19 January 2021
PLOS ONE , Volume 16; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0245218

Abstract: The long-term decline of longleaf pine-dominated forests has received considerable attention among land managers and conservation professionals in the last few decades. The objective of this study was to investigate the change in and the variation of the proportion, density, growth, and dominance of longleaf pine across the longleaf pine ecosystems for the 1997–2018 period. We used two sets of measurements of 1,432 plots from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) dataset covering the entire current longleaf pine range. The relationship between disturbances and longleaf pine basal area ratio and basal area growth were analyzed using linear mixed modeling. Change detection maps were produced using the Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) interpolation method. The total basal area and aboveground biomass per hectare increased in 64% and 72%, but decreased in 30% and 28% of the study area, respectively, between the first and last inventory intervals. Species richness and diversity generally decreased across the studied plots. Longleaf pine tree density and importance value percent increased during the period. However, longleaf basal area ratio and aboveground biomass ratio in the stands decreased on average by 5% during the period, although these ratios increased in some locations in southwest Georgia and near the west coast of Florida. The longleaf pine basal area ratio and aboveground biomass ratio decreased equally in 37%, and increased in 19% and 21% of the study area, respectively. There was about 79% variation in the ratio of longleaf pine basal area among plots. When compared to the natural control of no disturbance, fire disturbance was significantly associated with greater longleaf pine basal area ratio and basal area growth. Understanding the change in growth and distribution patterns of longleaf pine across its range over time is vital to restore these critical ecosystems.
Keywords: forests / biomass / Ecosystems / Species diversity / Shannon index / oaks / Forest ecology / pines

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