Learning more about the local ecology

Went down to Piney Grove in Sussex County on a Nature Conservancy tour. They are restoring 3200 acres in Sussex County and looking to do even more. I visited once before but it is always fun to look at forests, always fun to hear about managing them and this time Chrissy came along.

The goal is to recreate a longleaf pine savanna and protect the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. This takes time, maybe 50-70 years or more. In the meantime, they are using lobolly that were already on the land. A loblolly savanna shares can be a substitute, but not quite as good.

Longleaf pine ecosystems, as I have written many times, is one of the most diverse in North America. They once covered 93 million acres in the southern USA. They were reduced to only 3 millions acres and literally only 200 trees in Virginia. The key to longleaf restoration is fire and TNC is applying this to its property on Piney Grove.

After touring Piney Grove and learning about the pines and the various flowers and grasses the under story, we went kayaking on the Nottoway River with TNC guys explaining the local environment. This river is clean and healthy, since it most of the watershed is in fields and forests. The water was shallow, but enough to float.

There are lots of big cypress trees near the shore. Their roots form protection for the shorelines. Natural levies line the banks and a little inland from are flood plain forests. It is a beautiful riparian ecosystem.

My picture show the kayaking on the Nottoway. Next is the pine savanna. You can see the current generation of loblolly and the – we hope – new generation of longleaf. After that are narrow leaf sunflower in bloom and finally the road through Piney Grove.