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  1. THE BERRY COLLEGE LONGLEAF PROJECT: A MANAGEMENT PLAN UPDATE M. L. CIPOLLINI Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia. PROJECT SUMMARY: Studies on Berry College’s 28,000-acre campus have shown that stands of Mountain Longleaf remain as one of the last vestiges of a vibrant, fire-maintained ecosystem once dominating the region. Some trees are over 200 years old, indicating pre-colonial origin. Berry’s stands have benefited from lack of timbering on the mountain slopes. Nevertheless, fire suppression is causing longleaf to be replaced by hardwoods, and lack of prescribed fire has resulted in fuel buildup and an increased risk of wildfire. The control of Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) has resulted in clear-cuts dotting the campus -- the reintroduction of longleaf (which is resistant to SPB) is considered a potential solution to this problem. To address these issues, we have developed a plan to: 1) restore existing stands to reflect the composition of healthy fire-maintained mountain longleaf ecosystems, and 2) establish longleaf within SPB-induced clear-cuts. We are presently managing a 160-acre core area containing most of our remnant stands, have planted about 60 acres of longleaf within SPB clear-cuts, and plan (in the long term) to expand plantings and fire management to include all suitable sites on the southern slopes of Lavender Mountain (total suitable area estimated at about 1000 acres). In the next three years we plan to: 1) control hardwoods (via fire, removal, and herbicide injection), 2) plan, prepare for, and conduct prescribed burns, 3) establish a local seedling source, 4) continue reforestation efforts in SPB clear-cuts, 5) study the effects of varying management practices on longleaf population dynamics and on growth, fuel levels, and composition of associated flora and fauna, and 6) establish a GIS database to assist with longleaf project and campus land management. Faculty, student workers, land management staff, a technician, external teams of longleaf experts and fire managers, and volunteers will be involved in the project. We are developing public education materials, and regularly conduct tours of the management areas. USE OF BERRY SEEDSTOCK: Recent plantings have used mountain longleaf from Talladega. Starting in the fall of 2003, we will collect and process seeds with the help of Mr. Kirk Hinson (Southern Seed Company), and will initiate a program to generate containerized seedlings on campus. Our goal for 2003-2004 will be 2000 seedlings; future goals will be based upon anticipated seed crops, but will average 2000-3000 seedlings per year for the next 5 years. This should provide seedling stock that will be used to plant a total of 60-100 acres (10,000-14,000 seedlings at 150 seedlings per acre). RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES: Many aspects of the ecosystem will be studied for the effects of differing management practices. Several long-term research projects have already been initiated: 1) Demographic study of longleaf will continue to be performed every two years by the Plant Ecology class. 2) Seedling monitoring, plant community, and fuel analysis will be repeated annually by student workers. 3) Studies of various taxa will be conducted by students in various classes and by faculty. These projects will focus not only on plant diversity, but also on diversity other taxa (e.g., mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, etc.. Specific additional studies/new management ideas will be generated by a graduate or post-doctoral research assistant, and a research technician will be hired to assist with study design, and data collection, entry, management, and analysis. Berry College Longleaf Management Area Volunteer Tree Planting Group: Feb. 2003 FACULTY/STAFF LEVEL PERSONNEL: The Project Coordinator will oversee the project; other personnel may change depending on the nature of new projects that are developed, and as students graduate. The forest management crew will be supervised by Dean Wilson (Land Resources). Neal Edmondson (GA Forestry Commission) will provide fire-management training. Faculty (most with PhDs in Biology) will develop specific research projects (Directed Studies, class projects, independent faculty/student research). We are also interested in supporting graduate research by students from regional universities (our first student is Brianna Bennett, West Georgia College). Oversight of research will be facilitated by the involvement of a graduate research assistant and a research technician. SITE DESCRIPTIONS AND CURRENT MANAGEMENT PLANS: Stand A: This 1.25-hectare study site is dominated by hardwoods, and has initially been the most intensely managed because it has relatively few adult longleaf to be put at risk. In March 2003, litter was removed from the base of approximately half of the adult longleaf trees, and a restoration burn was conducted to initiate hardwood control and ground-level fuel reduction. In the winter of 2003-2004, we will begin hardwood control via Arsenal injection, targeting most soft-mast trees and approximately 50% of hard-mast trees (oaks, hickories). Cool season burns will take place every other year (resuming in 2004-2005), until fuel levels are reduced. Thereafter, cool season burns will take place every 4-5 years. Should recruitment of seedlings be insufficient, we will plant seedlings at densities not exceeding 200 per acre in 2006. Stand B: In 1999, a wildfire killed a number of adult longleaf in this 1.25-hectare study site, which is dominated by hardwoods, and contains some seedlings. It was treated identically to site A in March 2003, and will continue to be treated similarly in the future. Stand C: This 1.25-hectare study site is dominated by longleaf, but contains some seedlings or juveniles. Some adults were killed in the 1999 wildfire. This site has a well-developed herbaceous and shrub community, probably due to conditions created by the fire. We will initiate cool season burns in 2003-2004. Subsequent treatments will follow those of site A. Stand D: This 1.25-hectare study site contains some of the largest adult trees, and the highest density of seedlings and juveniles of all study stands. Areas containing seedlings have low litter build-up and a relatively open canopy. This site will be treated in identical fashion to Stand C. Stand E: This 1.56-hectare study site contains some of our oldest longleaf, but very few seedlings or juveniles, has extensive hardwood encroachment, and a relatively thick litter layer. Ms. Brianna Bennett (West Georgia College) is conducting a study focusing on the effects of prescribed burning on litter quality and nitrogen dynamics. Eight 25 x 25 m plots will be burned in the winter of 2003-2004, and another eight plots will be burned in the following growing season. In non-experimental areas of the stand, herbicide injection will be used to in a manner similar to stands A and B to begin to open up the canopy gaps so as to meet the light requirements of longleaf seedlings/juveniles, herbs, and shrubs. SAVE 2001 Areas: In 2000, these two sites were logged, leaving an open canopy of primarily scattered oak. They were planted in 2001 with 2000 seedlings. The eastern area will be burnt in the winter of 2003-2004. Cool season burning will thereafter occur every 4-5 years. The second area will be left untreated as a reference stand. This comparison will be replicated in all newly logged areas on the southwestern slopes of Lavender Mountain in 2006. SPB Control Areas 2001-2002: In 2001-02, a number of sites were logged to contain SPB outbreaks. i) Clear-cut area: Within an 18-acre area clear-cut, we established six 2 acre plots. Following a winter 2003 burn, longleaf seedlings were planted in four of the plots (2 high density and 2 low density plots) and loblolly seedlings were planted at high density in the remaining two plots (2 loblolly plots). High-density plots contained about 300 per acre, and low-density plots about 150 per acre. Loblolly plots will be managed using techniques normally used for loblolly timber production. Longleaf plots will be managed with a combination of thinning and more intense fire management that fosters an open-canopy, mixed pine-hardwood forest. Prescribed burns in these plots will be initiated in the second season of longleaf growth, and will take place thereafter every 4-5 years. ii) Selective-cut Areas: Within two selective-cut areas (about 15 acres each), we are comparing the fate of longleaf planted in areas with and without total timber removal. In each site, all timber was removed from half of the area, and the remaining half was left with a relatively open canopy of hardwoods. After site preparation burns, we planted longleaf seedlings at low densities (about 150 per acre) in 2003. Future management will be identical to the longleaf low-density plots in the clear-cut area study (above). JUSTIFICATION AND GENERAL APPROACH: The Berry Mountain Longleaf Ecosystem is one of the few remaining in mountain areas. Data on these stands show the effects of fire suppression, including litter buildup, hardwood encroachment, minimal regeneration, closed conditions, and high risk from wildfires. Berry’s faculty and students have put together a plan to address these problems. Our primary approach is a stepwise implementation of hardwood control and prescribed burns within small experimental study plots, with an eventual expansion within a preserve known as the Berry Longleaf Management Area. The second approach will be to plant mountain longleaf in mountainous areas that have been logged for SPB control, and to subsequently fire-manage those areas. Both approaches involve pre- and post-management surveys of trees, and of other flora and fauna. STUDENT EMPLOYEES AND VOLUNTEER GROUPS: The “Longleaf Team” includes students supervised by the Project Coordinator. Some (majors in the natural sciences) will focus on research and management, and will share information during tours and conferences. Others (Communications, Art, and Computer Science majors) will work on publicity, public education, and website development. A “Student Burn Crew” will be regularly trained to respond when needed for prescribed burns or wildfires. Student clubs and other volunteer groups will participate in management activities, most notably the planting of seedlings. For short-term labor-intensive tasks, student workers and volunteers will form temporary work crews. SIGNIFICANCE OF BERRY’S LONGLEAF: The significance of Berry’s plan has been summed up by Mr. John McGuire, of The Longleaf Alliance: 1) Berry’s longleaf forests represent an ecologically significant landscape type with a paucity of knowledge about it. 2) Berry’s campus has many very old trees, some in excess of 200 years old. These trees are significant ecologically, historically, and socially. 3) The hillsides at Berry have not been plowed and thus have the potential of benchmark groundcover species found on fire maintained mountain longleaf sites. 4) By establishing a model management plan that includes controlled burning, the project has important implications for fire re-introduction programs in other mountain sites. 5) The project has high potential to serve as an outdoor classroom and as a demonstration site. THE BERRY LONGLEAF NETWORK and INTERAGENCY BURN TEAM: The Berry Longleaf Network (a group of regional experts; see web page) critiques all aspects of our plan. An Interagency Burn Team (J. Rickard, U.S. F & W Service; N. Edmondson, GA Forestry Comm.; S. Cammack, GA DNR; Randy Tate, The Nature Conservancy; J. McGuire, Longleaf Alliance) will help plan and carry out initial burns. In the long-term, burns will be conducted by Berry personnel with assistance from local GA Forestry Commission personnel. EXPECTED SHORT-TERM RESULTS: Expected results must be interpreted in the context of our long-term objectives. In the next three years, we will conduct management practices according to the specific methods discussed above. Through our efforts, we expect that: 1) future data will show a self-sustaining population. 2) the plant community will approach that of healthy mountain longleaf stands at Ft. McClelland, AL, and will contain many species reported on Berry’s mountains early in the 20th century. 3) basic field data will be generated about the poorly understood mountain longleaf ecosystem. 4) we will be able to provide information to local and regional land managers concerning the usefulness of mountain longleaf and fire management in their own plans. 5) participants will gain academically, professionally, and personally from their experiences. 6) each newly managed area will be placed under permanent protection. LONG-TERM PLANS: We plan to eventually re-establish mountain longleaf habitat throughout all appropriate areas on the south-facing slopes of Lavender Mountain (expanding beyond the current core management area to a total of about 1000 acres). Once fuel has been reduced in appropriate sites and hardwood control initiated, burns will be conducted at a frequency of every 4-5 years. If necessary, containerized mountain longleaf seedlings will be planted in areas devoid of adult longleaf. The gradual replacement of deep litter with herbaceous groundcover is expected to ameliorate erosion problems. FOR MORE INFO, CONTACT: Martin L. Cipollini, Biology Department, P.O. Box 430 Berry College, Mount Berry, GA 30149-0430; Phone: 706-290-2149; FAX: 706-238-7855; Cell: 706-346-7956 E-mail: Web page: Interagency Burn Team and students conducting Berry’s first restoration burn on Lavender Mountain, March 2003 (photo courtesy of M. Hobbs, USFWS)