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Shortleaf Pine Initiative
Shortleaf pine is the most widespread pine species in the southeastern United States. Its natural range includes 21 states, extending from New York, south to north Florida and west into Texas and the eastern quarter of Oklahoma. Shortleaf-dominated landscapes support a wide variety of native grasses, wildflowers, forbs and wildlife species; survive on the harshest of sites; and are adapted to frequent wildfire and drought. However, according to U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data, the timberland area occupied by shortleaf pine declined from 12.6 million acres in 1980 to 6.0 million acres in 2012, a loss of 53 percent. The map shows current locations of shortleaf on FIA plots as compared to its native range.
Habitat loss for the species is a concern and is the result of several factors, including changes in fire frequency, large-scale tree plantings of faster-growing loblolly pine which have displaced native shortleaf on many sites and an increase in shortleaf X loblolly hybrids that is jeopardizing shortleaf’s genetic integrity.
Although loblolly pine is currently preferred for plantation-style management in Oklahoma, shortleaf pine is still a vital part of Oklahoma’s landscape. Shortleaf pine is well-adapted to droughty and rocky sites, and is very resistant to ice and wind damage. As a native species with the ability to sprout following fire, shortleaf is more adapted to the changing climate conditions at the western fringes of the pine range. However, managing a native shortleaf stand rather than converting it to a loblolly plantation requires the landowner to make tradeoffs, especially in timber production and short-term economic value.
Shortleaf is attracting renewed attention from those interested in restoring and maintaining historical native pine ecosystems throughout the South. It is not suitable for all management goals, but landowners should consider shortleaf pine for their upland sites, especially where natural regeneration is a feasible alternative. Learn more in the resources section, or by contacting us.
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Funding assistance for Oklahoma’s shortleaf pine initiative was provided by the USDA Forest Service – Southern Region, Forest Stewardship Program.