The Remnant Expansion Project

Boundary between degraded longleaf pine woodland (right) and old-field/pine plantation (left)

What maintains boundaries between remnant and non-remnant habitat?

A striking feature of remnants across many ecosystems is the sharp delineation of their boundaries and this is interesting from basic and applied standpoints.  Ultimately, a variety of interacting ecological processes likely maintain remnant boundaries and understanding these constraints would elucidate restoration strategies for promoting remnant growth – a potentially powerful restoration tool, especially in afforested landscapes containing fragments of remnant habitat, like much of the Eastern United States.

We are working to understand the restoration of longleaf pine woodland remnants in South Carolina and subsequent spatial spread of their plant communities into the surrounding afforested matrix – pine plantations grown on old agricultural fields.  Our approach includes large-scale manipulations (restoration of remnant and matrix forest), coupled with experiments to understand the biotic and abiotic constraints to remnant population spread.

Current collaborators include Lars Brudvig (MSU), John Orrock (U. Wisconsin-Madison), technician Joe Ledvina, and graduate student Dani Fegan.