Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA)

Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA)

Groundcover Symposium Continues to Inform Managers

By Brian Pelc, Restoration Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy

The restored sandhills of Liberty County, Florida, were both the backdrop and the focus of ARSA’s 2nd Biennial Groundcover Symposium, co-hosted by ARSA (Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance) and Southern Fire Exchange. Thirty-five participants came to The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve to hear presentations about current research projects pertaining to groundcover, then enjoyed a networking lunch and field tour highlighting the equipment and past work in the area.

Lessons learned during the workshop included practical implications of well-planned restoration projects. First, Dr. Joan Walker from the USFS Southern Research Station/Clemson University described a common garden experiment evaluating how the genetics of a small suite of groundcover species may influence site success. The take home from this work suggests keeping seed sources as local as possible and within habitat-type. However, there may be population advantages to mixing up the gene pool; more results will follow. Second, Dr. Monica Rother from Tall Timbers described their research on soil disturbance and site history on the success of establishing fine fuels versus weedy herbs that don’t carry fire well. Managers should be careful about putting a plow down as both the soil disturbance and, most likely, vegetative colonizers are more likely to inhibit fire. Third, Mike Jenkins from Florida Forest Service described a promising vegetation response after some simple mowing site prep before a longleaf planting project at Tate’s Hell State Forest. Finally, staff from the Conservancy described lessons learned in the 20+ years of sandhill and more recent forays into flatwoods restoration.

All of the presentations from the day will be available on the Southern Fire Exchange YouTube page with links on their website. This workshop was possible thanks to a Longleaf Stewardship Fund grant from NFWF and support from Southern Fire Exchange. Look for the 3rd Biennial symposium in late October 2019.


Participants in the field portion of the 2017 ARSA/Southern Fire Exchange Groundcover Symposium view a 3-year-old restored sandhill adjacent to a sand pine plantation closely approximating site conditions on the restoration site before clear-cut and site prep. Photo by B. Pelc 2017.