Proposal for Masters of Natural Resources Project submitted 2001


The Analysis of a Piedmont Longleaf Pine Community in Wake County, North Carolina

Amy Frame


Introduction


The Piedmont longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) community reaches its western limit in Wake County, North Carolina, and follows the fall line between the piedmont and coastal plain through the Carolinas (Wentworth, 1995). Longleaf pines are found in transitional communities alongside hardwood species such as Acer, Quercus, Cornus florida, as well as other pine species. These stands prove to be complex communities that harbor both coastal plain and piedmont species, culminating in a rare fire dependent system for this area (Parker, 1998). Although most of these transitional communities no longer hold their extensive original territories, remnant stands have been found sparsely scattered throughout the Piedmont (Wentworth, 1995; Dennington, 1983). Since these communities provide a rare look at the plant communities that normally do not interact, such as the coastal wiregrasses alongside piedmont species, it is important to study these sites to learn more about community transitions. The sites are rapidly disappearing due to the huge amounts of urbanization occurring in the piedmont areas along the East Coast. To further exacerbate the problem, these remaining communities now are found in highly populated areas where prescribed burning is nearly impossible, preventing the reproduction of the longleaf pines and small fire-dependent shrubs.

Objectives

The primary objective of this study is to further our understanding of one of these remnant Piedmont longleaf pine systems and recommend best use strategies for the site located on the Dorethea Dix Tract B parcel. This particular site was acquired by the NCDA in 1974 and is currently part of a cooperative agreement with NCSU for use of the wooded portions of the lot for teaching purposes (Robertson, 2001). It is my intention to provide a management and/or restoration plan at the end of this study to aid in formulating a best-use decision for this tract.


Background

Several options for the development of the Dix Tract B have been proposed, but thus far nothing has materialized. The proposed Gorman Street extension would cut through the wooded portion of Tract B; however, the construction would not directly impact the planted longleaf pine area. The exact path of the extension is unknown so it is impossible to estimate the number of acres that would be ultimately impacted. In 1999, the NCDA entered into an agreement with Wake County Parks to develop nature trails along the southern border of the Dorethea Dix Tract B as a part of the Yates Mill Pond preservation project. Neither of these proposals has gotten past the planning stages so the fate of the property is still undecided.


Little documentation for prior land use has occurred, although we do know that firewood sales were conducted between 1979 and 1981. We also know that some burning took place in the late 1970's into the early 1980's, though no reference to specific stands were found. Tom Wentworth produced a document for the NCDA led Dix Tract Advisory Committee in 1995 that describes the current condition of the site and describes a few of the unique plants found in the area. It also relays the importance of preservation.

The property is in varying successional stages due to natural and human disturbance. The mature, wooded stand contains both longleaf pines and hardwoods and has a fairly open understory. After hurricane Fran in 1997, a large-scale salvage operation removed downed trees and damaged timber. A portion of the property was clear cut as a result of the salvage and planted with containerized longleaf saplings that same year. Approximately one-third of the planted area was treated with the herbicide Garlon 4 in 2000 to inhibit weed growth.

Methods

I plan to accomplish my goals by dividing the project up into four portions: a historical recount, a general vegetation survey, a detailed cataloging of each individual longleaf pine tree and apparent longleaf stump in the target area, and the production of a restoration and management plan. I will conduct a survey of the historical land use for the entire Dix Tract B by researching previous land titles and collecting historical aerial photographs to determine what sort of activities shaped the current landscape. I will collect vegetation and tree data in an area almost entirely enclosed by an old plow line and edged by an agricultural field (approximately 18 acres). Using NCVS methodology (Peet, 1998), I will collect presence determinations and cover classes to create a species inventory for the property. I will also record site and plot characteristics such as a general description, evidence of fire, and localized damage or disturbance to aid in determining past use and the successional class of the area. I will create map and table providing the precise location and vital statistics (including height, diameter, approximate age, and condition) of every living longleaf pine or longleaf stump in the study area. Finally, after the surveys are complete, I will write a restoration and management plan, if needed, with recommendations for improvements and future management strategies.


Benefits

This site holds the interest of the NCDA, NCSU, Wake County Parks and Recreation, as well as NCDOT because of its urban location and unique community structure. I hope to provide the necessary information to produce a viable restoration and management plan to protect this area from development. I plan to discuss means of preserving the area's rich diversity and it's unique opportunity to continue to serve as an educational tool for future students.


Responsibilities

I will collect all the data necessary for this project via sampling and research. Debbie Robertson is my main contact at the NCDA. Ken Snyder is the NCSU Field Laboratory superintendent who grants access to the site. Ted Shear, Tom Wentworth, and Steve Anderson are on my advisory committee to provide consultation and plant expertise.


Schedule

Develop proposal-October 2001
Conduct historical research-October 2001-August 2002
Complete the Longleaf Pine and stump inventory-May 2002
Sample vegetation plots-community inventory-May-September 2002
Perform data Analysis-October-December 2002
Final report preparation-January-March 2003
Presentation of Masters Project-April 2003

References

Dennington, Roger W., and R. M. Farrar, Jr. 1983. Longleaf Pine Management. Forestry Report R8-FR3.

Parker, Douglas S. 1998. Using Botanical Analysis to Shape a Longleaf Restoration Project. Thesis, Dept. of Forestry, NCSU.

Peet R. K., T. R. Wentworth, and P. S. White. 1998. A Flexible, Multipurpose Method for Recording Vegetation Composition and Structure. Castanea. 63:262-274.

Robertson, Debbie, NCDA. 2001. Email and Phone conversations.

Wentworth, Tom R. 1995. Results of Survey in relict Piedmont Longleaf Site on Dorethea Dix Tract B. Memorandum prepared for the Dix Tract B and NCSU Field Biology Laboratory Management/Advisory Committee.