Longleaf pine savannas in the American Southeast are a biodiversity hotspot with only 3% of their original area left intact. Degraded longleaf pine savannas with a history of tillage agriculture have the potential to be restored, but the barriers to biodiversity recovery in these habitats are poorly understood. We monitored ground-layer plant communities in Remnants (no agricultural history) and Post-agricultural (agriculture abandoned >60 years ago) areas, half of which were restored by thinning trees to reinstate open savanna conditions. We found dozens of plant species that grow primarily only in remnant habitats. Restoration greatly increased diversity but did not overcome the legacy of agriculture on plant communities. Many other factors also shaped diversity including leaf litter, soils, and fire history. This research builds on our understanding of the ecological factors that shape biodiversity and informs restoration practices in this endangered ecosystem.
Nash Turley, Michigan State University
Nash Turley is a postdoctoral researcher who studies how ecological interactions and human activities, both past and present, shape biodiversity.
Lars Brudvig, Michigan State University
Lars Brudvig is professor who studies plant, restoration, and landscape ecology.