In a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation, restoring the longleaf pine in the southeast is a goal which can have impact on the lives and residents of South Carolina for generations to come.
Over cutting and replacement by short rotation pine species or agricultural crops has greatly diminished the extent of the longleaf. The longleaf pine is the native pine of the region and has provided turpentine, pine straw and recreational hunting among other products.
National Wildlife Federation expert, Eric Palola says the longleaf pine holds the key to the Southeast’s economic and environmental survival. “It’s a highly valued lumber and many of the old buildings across the south and many of the ships that were built in the 18th and 19th centuries were made of longleaf pine and so it’s very prised for its durability and workability and beauty which is one of the reasons people would like to have more of it available.”
(Eric Palola, NWF Expert MP3 :34)
The longleaf pine restoration is a promising global warming adaptation strategy for southeastern forests. The 2009 Myrtle Beach wildfires illustrated how longleaf pine forests can retain much of their economic value and are even rejuvenated by fire.
“A consideration for thinking about longleaf is that it’s much more resistant to the kinds of problems that climate change is going to create for the region,” said Palola. “One of these problems that we expect is that there going to be more drought like conditions, and therefore forests that burn up really easily, are much more susceptible to loss than a longleaf system that is use to fire, depends on fire and has this much more park-like, much more fire-resistant kind of pattern to it.”
Palola says that the main premise of the report is, “We think longleaf is probably one of the best defenses in terms of dealing with the kinds of stresses that climate change is going to pose to South Carolina in the coming years.”
The report also states that the longleaf pine has the ability “to stand up in severe windstorms, resist pests, tolerate wildfires and drought, and capture new carbon pollution.”
The crop which once covered over 90 million acres across eight states has been greatly diminished and is now found in less than 3 percent of its historic range. SC has about 400,000 acres of longleaf pine -or just 10% of nearly 14-million acres of timberland in the state.