By Michelle Brunetti Post
Pinelands landowners are being asked to plant the native shortleaf pine to restore the species in the region.
It’s part of a 22-state effort, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, called the Shortleaf Pine Initiative designed to combat a 50 percent decline in the species in the past 30 years.
The species (Pinus echinata) is native to the eastern and southern U.S., and west to Texas and Oklahoma. New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania are in the far north of its range, so it is expected to be more adaptable to a warming climate here.
“While the pitch pine is the predominant tree species in the Pinelands, re-establishing shortleaf pine helps restore a species that once had a bigger presence in the region and create opportunities for greater wildlife diversity,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said.
The tree prefers drier upland habitats of the Pinelands, and is one of many species the Forest Service is working to restore across the state.
Insect damage, disease, competition from other species, inadequate forest management practices in the past and changes in land use patterns have all combined to reduce tree’s numbers, according to the DEP. Shortleaf pine now represents only about 2 percent of the total trees in the 400,000 acres of forests in the Pinelands.