Effects of Restoration Techniques on Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics in Florida Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) Sandhill Forests
Mack, Michelle C.
Hiers, John K.
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Historic fire suppression and intensive forest management in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) sandhill forests has resulted in hardwood encroachment and degradation of this fire-dependent ecosystem. Active management is now required to restore native community structure and composition, but little is known about the long-term impacts of typical restoration techniques on ecosystem properties. In 1994, the Longleaf Pine Restoration Project (LPRP) was established in fire-excluded longleaf pine sandhills of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to explore the effects of restoration treatments on plant and animal community composition and soil processes. Experimental treatments applied included three hardwood reduction techniques and delayed burn. Reference sites were concurrently monitored. Fifteen years later, we revisited the LPRP plots to determine whether soil processes showed lasting treatment effects. This study showed that there were no differences in soil C and N between the reference and the fire-suppressed plots prior to the treatments, suggesting that soil C and N were relatively resistant to degradation. This study also showed that the restoration treatments had a significant effect by reducing soil C, but this effect was only short-lived (<3 years). In addition, a MRPP (multi-response permutation procedure) analysis showed that only the herbicide treatment was still different from the reference plots 15 years after the initial treatments. Thus, this study suggests that repeated fires (or lack of) or hardwood removal treatments have little detectable effect on soil nutrients in these nutrient-poor ecosystems.