As a fire-dependent natural community, the primary threat to pitch pine-oak forests is the suppression of fire. Other threats to this community include fragmenting development (e.g., residential development, roads), recreational overuse (e.g., ATVs, hikers, mountain bikes, trash dumping), and habitat alteration (e.g., excessive logging, construction of utility ROWs). Several examples of pitch pine-oak forest are threatened by invasive species, such as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolaris).The oak trees in pitch pine-oak forests may be threatened by the non-native gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) which is one of North America's most destructive forest pests. The gypsy moth is known to feed on the foliage of hundreds of species of plants in North America but its most common hosts are oaks (Quercus spp.) and aspen (Populus spp.). Gypsy moth populations are typically eruptive in North America; in any forest stand densities may fluctuate from near 1 egg mass per ha to over 1,000 per ha. When densities reach very high levels, trees may become completely defoliated. Several successive years of defoliation, along with other biotic and abiotic stress factors, may ultimately result in tree mortality (McManus et al. 1980, Liebold 2003 ).
|Conservation Strategies and Management Practices||
Develop and implement presribed burn plans at appropriate sites. Reduce or minimize fragmenting features, such as roads, abandoned clearings, unnecessary trails, etc. Restrict mountain bikes and ATVs to designated trails and least sensitive areas, and prevent dumping of trash.
Management should focus on activities that help maintain regeneration of the species associated with this community. Deer have been shown to have negative effects on forest understories (Miller et al. 1992, Augustine and French 1998, Knight 2003) and management efforts should strive to ensure that regenerating trees and shrubs are not so heavily browsed that they cannot replace overstory trees. Encourage selective logging in areas that are under active forestry.
|Development and Mitigation Considerations||
Strive to minimize fragmentation of large forest blocks by focusing development on forest edges, minimizing the width of roads and road corridors extending into forests, and designing cluster developments that minimize the spatial extent of the development. Development projects with the least impact on large forests and all the plants and animals living within these forests are those developments built on brownfields or other previously developed land. These projects have the added benefit of matching sustainable development practices (for example, see: The President's Council on Sustainable Development 1999 final report, US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification process at http://www.usgbc.org/).
Research the composition of pitch pine-oak forests statewide in order to characterize variations (e.g., coastal plain, inland, and northern types). Collect sufficient plot data to support the recognition of several distinct pitch pine-oak forest types based on composition and by ecoregion. Determine the optimal fire regime for this community.