Ecosystem Functions and Services

Forests are not simply a collection of trees, but a complex assemblage of biotic and abiotic parts interacting to form a unique and highly dynamic system.

Emerging out of this complexity are functions and processes, such as carbon sequestration and water regulation which benefit people.

These tangible benefits, often termed ecosystem services, give forests measurable value to people aside from the economic value of the timber.

This research theme centers on understanding and quantifying these values as they relate to longleaf pine woodlands, and identifying vulnerabilities of these ecosystems to climate variations, disturbances, and changes in management.

This theme builds on several interconnected long-term data sets at the Center, including measurements of

  • forest productivity and biodiversity
  • forest water use
  • research on carbon cycling

Numerous other studies have examined diverse topics ranging from tree defenses against bark beetle attack to the effects of nitrogen fertilization on plant diversity. Studies in this theme currently focus on the effects of fire suppression on forest resilience and ecosystem services, and the effects of Hurricane Michael on ecosystem function.

Key Publications

Boring, L. R., C. A. Wilson, J. J. Hendricks, and R. J. Mitchell. 2004. Season of burn and nutrient losses in a longleaf pine ecosystem. International Journal of Wildland Fire 13:443-453.
Brantley, S. T., J. M. Vose, D. N. Wear, and L. E. Band. 2017. Planning for an uncertain future: restoration to mitigate water scarcity, and sustain carbon sequestration. Pages 291-239 in L. K. Kirkman, and S. B. Jack (eds.). Ecological Restoration and Management of Longleaf Pine Forests. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
Cathey, S. E., L. R. Boring, and T. R. Sinclair. 2010. Assessment of Nitrogen fixation capability of native legumes from the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem. Environmental and Experimental Botany 67:444-450.
Ford, C. R., R. J. Mitchell, and R. O. Teskey. 2008. Water table depth affects productivity, water use, and the response to nitrogen addition in a savanna system. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38:2118-2127. Reproduced with permission of the National Research Council Press © 2008.
Kirkman, L. K., L. M. Giencke, R. S. Taylor, L. R. Boring, C. L. Staudhammer, and R. J. Mitchell. 2016. Productivity and species richness in longleaf pine woodlands: resource-disturbance influences across an edaphic gradient. Ecology 97:2259-2271.
Pecot, S. D., R. J. Mitchell, B. J. Palik, E. B. Moser, and J. K. Hiers. 2007. Competitive responses of seedlings and understory plants in longleaf pine woodlands: separating canopy influences above and below ground. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 37:634-648. Reproduced with permission of the National Research Council Press © 2007.
Starr, G., C. L. Staudhammer, S . Wiesner, S. Kunwor, H. W. Loescher, A. F. Baron, A. Whelan, R. J. Mitchell, and L. R. Boring. 2016. Carbon dynamics of Pinus palustris ecosystems following drought. Forests 7:98. pdf
Whelan, A., G. Starr, C. L. Staudhammer, H. W. Loescher, and R. J. Mitchell. 2015. Effects of drought and prescribed fire on energy exchange in longleaf pine ecosystems. Ecosphere 6(7):128. pdf