Upland Pine, Blackwater River State Forest. Photo by Gary Knight

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Map of the Month: Longleaf Pine Ecosystems

FNAI, in partnership with Florida Forest Service (FFS), has just launched our newest interactive map:  Longleaf Pine Ecosystems in Florida.  The public and our partners can now easily view data contained in the Florida Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Geodatabase (LPEGDB), a central repository for information on the distribution and ecological condition of longleaf pine.   

Longleaf pines in flatwoods, Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area, Osceola County.  Photo by Amy Jenkins.

Much of the LPEGDB data is thanks to the dedicated efforts of FFS County Foresters who field assessed almost 850,000 acres of potential longleaf in 8 months!  FNAI helped develop the rapid assessment protocol and trained 40 foresters on its use in the field.  In addition to the rapid assessment, the LPEGDB contains information from many other sources including field data collected by FNAI and our partner agencies like US Forest Service, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Water Management Districts.  To date these efforts have confirmed 2.15 million acres of longleaf in the state and we can report ecological conditions on 78% of those areas.

Collecting data in a longleaf community.
On the interactive map users can toggle Ecological Conditions layers to display summaries of vegetation structure and composition for the canopy, shrub, and ground layers. 
Healthy longleaf pine ecosystems are characterized by much more than their iconic trees.  Assessment of vegetation at different levels gives a picture of overall condition and can help guide management and restoration priorities.  In their natural condition, these fire-adapted, open landscapes have one of the highest diversities of flowering plants in North America and are critical habitat to a host of rare animals including gopher tortoises, fox squirrels and red-cockaded woodpeckers.   Land managers often focus on restoring appropriate fire regimes to help restore the natural biodiversity and ecological processes of these communities.

Regenerating longleaf seedlings.  Photo by Gary Knight.
Check out the map and provide feedback.   The map reflects the latest version of the database– LPEGDB v.3— just published in September 2015, and we are pleased to continue our partnership with FFS to update the LPEGDB in 2016.  For latest details on the project and other longleaf links please visit our longleaf webpage.