A Holistic Approach to Listed Species Management: Seeing the Forest, as Well as the Trees
During the late 1980s, regulatory requirements for the management and recovery of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW; Picoides borealis) began to create constraints on the military mission at a number of southeastern DoD installations. In addressing such constraints, a door was opened that led the way to a solution that improved the prospects for sustaining both mission activities and the focus on recovering the longleaf pine ecosystem. This fire-adapted ecosystem had once constituted the primary habitat of the RCW but had seen dramatic reductions in its historical extent through replacement by development, agriculture, and non-native pine plantations. Remaining stands existed in a degraded state.
As part of DoD’s response to the RCW situation, SERDP has played and continues to play a key role in providing the fundamental and applied science necessary to integrate improved understanding of RCW species ecology and longleaf pine ecosystem recovery objectives within the context of an ecosystem-based management approach. In addition, SERDP is pursuing application of the principles of ecological forestry as related to development of new silvicultural prescriptions to support the recovery and management of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Ongoing research will improve our understanding of how management for the RCW and mature stages of the longleaf pine ecosystem affect other species. Finally, SERDP-supported research goes one step farther to determine how management activities, such as prescribed burning, affect regional air quality.
This holistic approach to listed species research and management contributes to realistic and sustainable training conditions and puts DoD at the forefront of implementing innovative and scientifically defensible approaches to listed species recovery and management. The research also has a broader application in that knowledge developed to support RCW management provides insight and tools that can assist with the management of other listed species and their associated ecosystems now and into the future.