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Oh, Christmas Tree: Could Southern Pines Slow Climate Change?

December 24, 2009

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A new report details how replanting traditional forests of longleaf pine trees in Tennessee and throughout the South could boost the economy, while helping the entire state cope with the effects of climate change. Towering longleaf pine trees once covered more than 90 million acres of the Southeastern United States. The trees were popular because of their strong timber products, which were used in shipbuilding and homebuilding. But today, the trees are found on less than three percent of their original acreage. Now, there's a push to replant the pines.

Tom Darden, senior editor for America's Longleaf, one of the groups that issued the report, says longleaf forests are resilient in the face of pests, drought, storms and fires, and could play a role in helping reduce the pollution many scientists associate with a changing climate.

"If, collectively, we all plant more longleaf forest, we'll sequester or capture more carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in forest."

Researchers have the knowledge to ensure that new plantings of pines in Northern and Central Florida would flourish, says Darden.

"We have the science in place to restore these forests, and we now need the support and the political will to move that forward."

Resource economist Eric Palola is one of the report authors. He says more longleaf pines could also benefit Florida's bottom line and build rural wealth.

"Longleaf is attractive because of its potential to generate not only timber income, but other kinds of income streams; pine straw for landscaping mulch, and hunting leases because it's the preferred habitat for bobwhite quail."

Healthy longleaf forests also help protect native plants and wildlife, according to the report. The pines fell out of favor because faster-growing pines became widely available, although America's Longleaf reports those trees are not as resilient and the timber is of lower quality.

The full report, Standing Tall: How Restoring the Longleaf Pine Can Help Prepare the Southeast for Global Warming, is at .



Deb Courson, Public News Service - TN