When Europeans first arrived in North America, 90 million acres of longleaf pine habitat covered the American southeast. Today, 3 million acres remain, but most of that has been planted and regrown over the last 100 years. Only 10,000 acres of old growth longleaf forest remain.
This ecosystem is one of the most biodiverse in North America. Frequent burning (2-3 years) promotes wide spacing of pine and allows a host of wildflowers, grasses, and succulent plants to flourish. In turn, these provide food and shelter for hundreds of species, some of which are only found within this habitat.
The WFSU viewing area is home to the best remaining examples of pine flatwoods. To the south and west of Tallahassee, the Apalachicola National Forest contains over half a million acres of forest, where the largest number of endangered red cockaded woodpeckers can be found. To the north and east of Tallahassee, the private landowners of the Red Hills maintain 300,000 contiguous acres of forest land, including some of the best examples of old growth longleaf forest. On our adventures in these ancient forests, we best see the dynamics of this ecosystem. It’s a vision of what might be for the many other locations we visit that are being restored. It’s a process that will take hundreds of years to complete.