Photo of the Week – January 24, 2014

I’m in New Orleans this week at a conference with more than 200 colleagues from across the Central U.S.  It’s been inspiring to hang out  and learn from them.  Early in the week, I got to go on a field trip to a couple of natural areas just north of New Orleans.  Here are a couple photos from that trip.

Slash pine at The Nature Conservancy's Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve north of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Slash pine at The Nature Conservancy’s Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve north of New Orleans, Louisiana.

We visited a couple sites where the Conservancy is working to restore longleaf pine savanna and similar natural communities.  These photos are from a site that includes plants such as cypress, pitcher plants and myriad other species I don’t get to see at home.  In fact, it was both fascinating and a little humbling to see all the plants that I couldn’t identify.  For quite a few of them, I didn’t even recognize the genus, let alone the species!  That said, many of the restoration techniques are very similar to those we use in Nebraska, so there was a lot we could learn from each other.

The Conservancy's Nelwyn McInnis leads a tour group through the site.

The Conservancy’s Nelwyn McInnis leads a tour group through the site.  The savannas we hiked through were essentially prairies with trees, which are beautiful but I had to keep reminding myself that it was ok to have trees in a prairie…

Many thanks to the staff of The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana for hosting us this week.  I look forward to visiting again.

Advertisements

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
This entry was posted in Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Photo of the Week – January 24, 2014

  1. I lived in Florida for 8 years, and of all the habitats there, I was most intrigued by the pine savannas.

  2. Bob Stine says:

    I grew up in the piney woods of Baldwin County, Alabama, just east of Mobile. I have read that much of Alabama was deciduous forest before the Europeans arrived, but after the land was cleared for cotton and other agriculture, pines were what grew back. Whether that’s on target or not, in many wooded areas of Alabama you can still see the furrows from when the land was plowed for cotton.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Bob – I’m certainly not an expert on this, but my understanding is that much of Alabama was longleaf pine, historically, but even within that system there are lots of deciduous trees as well. You could certainly be right too, though, because I don’t know anything about the Mobile area. I know that in much of the longleaf area, after they cleared the old growth longleaf, they planted different pine species back in – loblolly and slash pine, as examples.

  3. Patrick says:

    Neat area. When was it last burned?

  4. James McGee says:

    The reason “why?” trees in a savanna are so widely spaced has always been an enigma for me. I have thought of savannas as “The place where a stalemate has occurred in the war between trees and grass.” However, this must be an over simplification. Some biological phenomena must be underlying the apparent order in these widely spaced trees. I continue to wonder “What is the mechanism behind the open character of savannas?”

    • What, James. You don’t find the stochasiticity of seedling survival “explanation” satisfying?! I hear you.
      Let us hope someone reading this post and comments will point us to some literature that elucidates processes of individual tree seedling>sapling>adult survival and spacing in savannas.

  5. Carol Denhof says:

    Great to meet you this week, Chris. We longleaf folks can learn so much from the work you all have done in the prairies as we move ahead with grassland restoration here in the Southeast. Looking forward to future collaboration.

  6. Some great reading on that ecosystem can be found in the following books:

    “Looking for Longleaf: The Rise and Fall of an American Forest” by Lawrence S. Earley
    “Forgotten Grasslands of the South: Natural History and Conservation” by Reed S. Noss
    “Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America’s Richest Forest” by Bill Finch, et al.

    As a quick forestry note, Loblolly Pine (Pinus tadea) is one of the most overplanted tree species in the timber industry – Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menzeisii) is the other one in the West. Sure, Loblolly has much faster early growth compared to Longleaf (Pinus palustris) or Shortleaf (Pinus echinata), but in the long run with a longer harvest rotation, Longleaf and Shortleaf produce much higher quality timber, and naturally so (today’s Loblolly Pines are artificially selected for fast growth to make an early return on investments, not unlike corn). There’s also less warping of the lumber products produced from Long and Shortleaf – they have much tighter grain. I find their respective ecological characteristics more interesting as well – both are much more fire adapted than Loblolly.

    Kudos to the Longleaf Alliance for doing what they do!

  7. Pingback: Five on Friday (times 2) | The Loveliness Chronicles

PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s