Where Have All the Longleaf Gone?

Prior to 1492, longleaf pine ecosystems covered more than 92 million acres in the southeastern United States. These forests and savannas were ecologically diverse fire ecosystems, a result of lightning and fires intentionally set by Native Americans to manipulate their landscapes. Europeans exploited and cleared these forests for farmland, naval stores, and lumber for more than 400 years. Although these forests contributed much to the economic and cultural development of our region, a scant four million acres now remain. The highest honor North Carolina bestows on its citizens is the Order of the Longleaf Pine, although little remains of this ecosystem today. Fortunately, efforts are being made to restore these ecosytems in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast through a better understanding of their diversity and their ecological requirements.

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