Maritime Forest Restoration at Cannon’s Point Preserve
Authors: Maitland Bass, Clayton Davis, Tiffany Reynolds, and Emily C. Thyroff
Faculty Supervisor: C. Tate Holbrook, Ph.D.
Our Conservation Biology class assisted the St. Simons Land Trust and academic partners with a maritime forest restoration project at Cannon’s Point Preserve (CPP). Maritime forests are a key component of coastal ecosystems in the southeastern United States. They have been extensively destroyed, fragmented, and degraded for agriculture, lumber, and development. Live oak (Quercus vigininana) is a dominant species in maritime forests that provides habitat and food for wildlife. The overall goal of the project at CPP is to determine the best management practices for regenerating live oak in areas that were previously converted to pine plantations. Phase 1 of the project showed that herbivore exclusion is key to survivability of seedlings. We contributed to Phase 2, an experiment to evaluate the relative influence of canopy or overstory thinning (2016 clear-cut, heavy thin, light thin, no thin) and competing vegetation control (weeding) on live oak regeneration success. We conducted vegetation surveys in which we measured percent cover and height of competing vegetation around planted live oaks in each treatment. We also assisted with vegetation removal in assigned plots. Preliminary results suggest that overstory thinning promotes the growth of competing plants, although live oak seedlings may also benefit from the increased light availability. Selective weeding appears to be most effective in heavily-thinned to clear-cut areas. This research will inform maritime forest restoration plans at Cannon’s Point Preserve and other coastal locations that were historically converted to lumber pine stands.