In this post, I’ll begin a discussion of some of the salient features of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory plant community, the foundation of the ecosystem that I am in the process of restoring. It’s a big project in which I’ve been involved for more than a decade.
This ecosystem was the dominant plant community of the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain Ecoregion, encompassing northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma.
Take a look at the map above to see a few of the many ecoregions described in North America. Each is unique, based on a combination of factors such as climate, rainfall, topography, soils, geology, hydrology, flora, fauna, etc. The UWGCP Ecoregion is one of gentle rolling hills of mixed pines and hardwoods. Located on the hilltops and upper slopes, it was actually a fire-sustained open woodland instead of a shady forest and it allowed enough sunlight in to have a tallgrass prairie ground cover, a “prairie ground cover under trees.”
The two additional forest types are true forests (oldgrowth shady “cathedral-like”) located down slope along the draws and in the bottomlands. My own restoration on Wafer Creek Ranch, where I live, is located in northwest Louisiana near Ruston.
The forest of the draws of the lower slopes of the hills is called the Mixed Hardwood-Loblolly Pine Forest community, and the forest of the bottomland flood plain is the Small Stream Forest community. The forest structure of these two communities is quite different from that of the woodland of the upper slopes and hilltops.
In my next post, I’ll describe the overstory (the trees) of the Shortleaf-Pine-oak-hickory woodland. This is gonna be fun.
Johnny Armstrong, Author
Rescuing Biodiversity (publishing in June 2023) tells the story of Johnny's attempts at Wafer Creek Ranch to preserve a vanishing Louisiana ecosystem and restore the animal and plant species that once lived there.
“An avowed student of life and restoration ecology, Johnny Armstrong expertly teaches us how to restore an imperiled southern ecosystem based on deep research, firsthand experience, and delighted observation of the species that return to his beloved Wafer Creek Ranch. Driving his devotion is the alarming truth that loss of biodiversity poses a threat on par with climate change and his impassioned belief that society can alter that trajectory, one acre at a time.”
Cindy Brown, Executive Director
Land Trust for Louisiana
“Up there on your bookshelf between Tolkien and Watership Down is where this book belongs. As an anthropomorphic adventure that winds through the realm of animals possessing courage, savagery, perseverance, and ultimately wisdom in the face of mounting evil threats – humans disconnected from the natural world – the tale is relevant, if not necessary.”
Kelby Ouchley, Author
Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
by Johnny Armstrong
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