Longleaf pine forests

W H 512W Longleaf Pine Forests

Long leaf pine forests are considered one of the most species‐rich ecosystems in North America containing a diversity of plants and animals and have recently been identified as endangered nationwide. Additionally, Sandy Island’s maritime sandhill community is thought to be the only site of its type in South Carolina. Due to logging and development, these forests now occupy less than a quarter of their original range and the Refuge is dedicated to protecting and enhancing this important habitat. Longleaf pines can grow 80 to 100 feet tall with a diameter of 2.5 feet, and due to their longevity of 150 years or more, they store carbon for long periods of time offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Frequent prescribed fires keep the understory in a savanna‐like habitat with bunch grasses and wax myrtles. The most notable wildlife species to live in this habitat is the endangered red‐cockaded woodpecker which uses mature trees for nesting cavities and the grassy understory for foraging. Another unique feature of the longleaf pine forest on Sandy Island is the presence of Carolina Bays. These isolated wetlands are symmetrically oval‐shaped depressions that are wet in the spring and winter, and dry in the summer. They provide habitat for rare plants such as carnivorous Venus fly traps and pitcher plants, and they also provide refuge and foraging areas for animals such as deer and black bear.