productivity and biodiversity


Longleaf Pine Savannah


Site Contents:

Project Overview



Education and Outreach


Project Overview

Prior to European settlement, the Gulf Coastal Plain landscape was dominated by a matrix of longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystems with corridors of riparian forests along waterways, and scattered embedded wetlands. Investigations suggest that this landscape, when intact, is among the most diverse in North America, containing almost 25% of all plant species in North America including Mexico. In addition, wetlands embedded in the longleaf matrix are among the most productive portions of the landscape and diverse in flora and fauna. Yet, longleaf pine ecosystems with their diverse understory plant communities only occupy a small proportion of their original range. What was once an intact landscape has become increasingly fragmented. The ecosystems that historically comprised the Gulf Coastal Plain continue to be threatened by increasing agriculture, land development, and human water use.

            Recently, interest has increased in conserving the remaining longleaf pine stands as well as restoring these ecosystems on sites that they once occupied in the Gulf Coastal Plain due to their potential economic value and their importance from a regional conservation perspective. These forests are distinguished ecologically by the wide variety of sites they occupy, their dependence on fire, and the large number of additional disturbances that act at various scales in time and space to mold their structure and function. Because longleaf pine forest productivity varies with the changing distribution of abiotic and biotic factors, comparing patterns in productivity can reveal basic driving forces across landscapes. Prescribed FireHydrology, the abundance and seasonal distribution of water, interacts with fire to be one of the most important drivers of structure and function for wetland and forested ecosystems on the Gulf Coastal Plain. In this landscape, precipitation is generally abundant, yet climate and geology interact to cause periodic moisture limitation and excess. Addressing the mechanisms potentially regulating productivity such as hydrology or fire, can also help predict the consequence of management activities for commodity-driven goals (e.g., silviculture, game habitat). Similarly, it can provide an understanding of the relationship between productivity and species richness that is central to conservation-driven objectives (e.g., restoration or maintenance of biodiversity). Understanding the complex feedback mechanisms between disturbance, site resources, productivity, and species diversity is essential for guiding ecosystem management and restoration efforts.

The goal of the productivity and biodiversity program is to understand the role of fire, Nitrogen (N), and water and their controls on the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem of the Gulf Coastal Plain.

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physical setting ll pines

Gradient Study

gradient studyThis proposal outlines a series of experiments that use both natural hydrologic gradients and manipulative approaches with fire, water and nutrients that span the landscape at Ichauway. We propose to develop a general understanding of patterns in productivity and biodiversity by quantifying patterns across natural gradients. Learn more...


Fire Exclusion Study

fire exclusionWe designed a study to examine the extent that fire and N control vegetative composition, productivity, and nutrient cycling in a longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem. We predict that because of fire’s negative influence on recruitment of hardwood trees, removing fire from the longleaf pine ecosystem will shift the vegetative composition from predominantly longleaf pine/wiregrass to a hardwood/longleaf pine mix. Learn more...


Physical Setting

physical settingThe longleaf pine-wiregrass forests at the Jones Center are second-growth stands with the average tree ages ranging from 70-90 years (Mitchell et al. 1999). Soils at the xeric end of the gradient are classified as Typic Quartzipsament and are characterized by coarse sand that exceeds 2.5 m in depth, weak development of soil horizons due to mixing by soil fauna, low organic matter content, and lack of silt and clay. Learn more...


Experimental Design

experimental designThis study is a multi-factorial experimental design with 4 combinations/4 replications of fire status (fire-maintained or fire-excluded) and nitrogen addition (added or not added) as experimental treatments. The treatments will be 4 combinations of fire and N application: plots will either be burned at an approximate 2-year interval (+) or excluded from fire (-), and fertilized at a rate of 50 kg N ha-1 yr-1 (+), or not fertilized (-). Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3; 34-0-0) will be applied every 4 months in the fertilized plots to coarsely mimic the natural distribution of net N mineralization throughout the year. As such, 23% of the annual N addition will be applied in April, 60% in August, and 17% in December. Learn more...


Recent Publications

Click here for a list of recent publications Recent Publications


Graduate Students

Click here for a list of graduate students. Grad Students

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Conservation Image

Our desired future conservation results include; 1) An increased understanding of the patterns of productivity of longleaf pine ecosystems and their controls: 2) Controls on biodiversity and their interactions with productivity: 3) Fire suppression impacts and regulators of biodiversity and productivity: 4) Water use an climate influences on productivity: 5) Carbon emissions and their impact on air quality.

What we learn can be interpreted into information transfer and demonstration areas that address current limitations in our understanding and push the threshold of scientific and management paradigms. These include the multiple limitations of productivity and biodiversity and how they fit into an ecosystem management and restoration perspective.

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Education - Field Study

Information generated through the J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center's scientific research program is shared with a diverse constituency, including practicing natural resource professionals, visiting university classes, natural resource and environmental policy-makers, private landowners, regional educators, and other conservation-oriented public- and private-sector interest groups.  Within these groups, we prioritize efforts that hold the greatest promise for tangible, timely, and lasting contributions to the conservation and stewardship of natural resources.


EERA - Programs for Educators

EERA 1Although the Center does not work directly with K – 12 students, we recognize the importance of impacting this age group for the future of conservation in the region. To accomplish this, as well as to foster healthy public relations in our surrounding communities, we dedicate a significant amount of time annually to schoolteacher training.  These efforts have increased public awareness of the Center among people in the region, contributed to professional development of educators in an underserved part of the state, and helped to institutionalize educational efforts related to the region’s rich natural resources in local school systems. Our flagship project in this category is the Environmental Education Research Academy EERA. Learn more...


Maymester - Prescribed Fire

Prescribed Fire LightingThe 2003 Maymester Course conducted one 73 acre prescribed burn. The majority of the burn unit was mixed longleaf pine/hardwood forest, with smaller areas dominated by longleaf pine or deciduous hardwoods. Most of the unit’s understory was native ground cover, dominated by wiregrass. Objectives for this burn were fuel reduction, hardwood control, and wiregrass seed production. Learn more...


Maymester - Coastal Plains Ecosystems

This is a graduate level course offered to students from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. The goal of the course is to expose students to a science-based approach to conservation, management, and restoration of coastal plain ecosystems. The course is primarily field based and is designed to focus on ecosystem management of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats and species of conservation concern that inhabit them. Learn more...


Outreach Publications

Outreach PubsThe Jones Center has collaborated on two recent volumes of the Natural Georgia series of publications produced by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and Lenz Design. "The Fire Forest" focuses on the longleaf pine ecosystem, while "The Flint River" looks at Georgia's most unique river. Designed to educate the general public about the importance of Georgia's natural systems, these books feature informative articles on the natural and cultural history of their given topic as well as compelling photography. Learn more...


Landowner Workshop

Landowners groupThe Center occasionally hosts workshops and field days for private landowners and managers in the region. While participating landowners value their lands from many perspectives, a common thread that ties our audience together is that conservation is an overarching priority in their approach to management. Recognizing that every landowner has differing goals and objectives for their land, we advocate management of the system as a whole, rather than attempting to maximize any one value to the exclusion of others. Learn more...


Native Groundcover Partnership

Groundcover RestorationAs interest in restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem continues to grow, particular attention is being focused on restoration of native ground cover because of the importance of these species for wildlife habitat and ecosystem management. Learn more...

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