Developing Rapid Assessment Metrics for Measuring Open Pine Ecosystem Health in the Southeastern United States

Southeastern United States

About This Project

Open woodlands dominated by southern yellow pine were historically a large component of the landscape across the southeastern United States. These woodlands have an open canopy of longleaf, slash, shortleaf, and/or loblolly pines, with scattered shrubs and a grassy understory. These southern open pine ecosystems support many species of wildlife, many of which have declined in recent years as the amount and condition of their habitat has declined. This troubling decline in wildlife species has led to a focus on regional conservation efforts by America’s Longleaf, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, National Bobwhite Quail Initiative, regional Bird Conservation Joint Ventures, The Nature Conservancy, the Shortleaf Pine Initative, and other conservation partners. These groups all agree that there is a need for more high quality open pine acreage, but until now there has been no efficient, agreed upon, way to identify those tracts that are providing the best habitat for key wildlife species.

In partnership with the Gulf Coastal Plain and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC), NatureServe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture have developed desired forest condition (rapid assessment) metrics to measure wildlife habitat value and ecological integrity of tracts of land, with a primary focus on those lands being managed primarily for conservation. These desired forest condition metrics help conservation-minded landowners understand how their properties are contributing to the habitat needs of priority wildlife of southern open pine ecosystems, as determined by the Gulf Coastal Plain and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC).


The project's two primary goals were to:

  • Develop metrics to measure open pine wildlife habitat and ecological health based on peer-reviewed literature, original research, and expert input and
  • Summarize metrics in an easy to use, rapid assessment protocols document for use by those managing open pine stands primarily for conservation.


This tool allows land managers to quickly assess stand-scale ecological health.