TLC recently began forest restoration activities at the George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve in Orange County. The long-term goal for these stands is to move away from a loblolly pine monoculture that has little benefit for wildlife, and rather promote a more mixed hardwood forest, which may still have a pine component. TLC plans to restore a mixed oak-hickory forest on these upland stands, and shortleaf pine, a native species in serious decline, is a component of many mixed upland stands. It is important to note that restoration is a long-term and ongoing process. While natural succession would have eventually replaced the loblolly pine, TLC’s restoration efforts will speed up the process while giving the organization more control over the eventual outcome, which is targeted to benefit both plant and wildlife species.
We removed loblolly pine by thinning in several stands, many of which were machine-planted loblolly pine plantations. The purpose of the thinning was to open up the stand to more light in order to benefit additional species, in addition to removing pine trees that would have started to die naturally in the near future. The increased light has made it possible for more species to germinate and grow in the understory. To make use of this additional light and jumpstart the restoration process, TLC volunteers recently planted several thousand acorns and hickory nuts in the thinned pine stands.
Once the seeds germinate, it will be up to TLC to use the right management tools to encourage the continued growth of the hardwood seedlings. One such management tool is prescribed fire—oak trees are adapted to fire, and once established, will sprout after a burn, while many other species, such as loblolly pine, will not.