In this video Ike McWhorter, US Forest Service Fire Ecologist discusses Gap Phase Generation in Longleaf Pine Stands.

Ike McWhorter's Gap Phase Regeneration Segment Audio Transcription

We are now at Boykin Springs Longleaf, one of our premier Longleaf stands. It’s got the classic structure, old growth longleaf, very open, no hardwood trees, very few shrubs and a very diverse ground cover and grasses and forbs, the dominant one being Pine Hill Bluestem which forms the dominant cover we see through here. Excellent wildlife habitat, many Red Cockaded Woodpeckers live here, it’s really a good all-around good Longleaf site.

One of the interesting things about these Longleaf stands, although they appear to be even age stands of trees, they are actually an uneven age forest but they consist of a mosaic of small even age patches. This is created through a process we call gap phase regeneration. A few trees die perhaps from lightning or wind storms or insects or maybe a real hot fire, it creates a gap in the forest.

The Longleaf which doesn’t reproduce very often but when it does it drops a lot of seeds, and after a fire when there is bare ground these seeds take hold in these openings. It is a very intolerant tree so it can’t grow in the shade of other trees but can grow in these openings and so you get what we call gap phase regeneration. Behind me you can see an example of it, it’s a young stand of saplings that developed in an opening in the forest. This is what happens throughout the system, over time and it creates the uneven age structure which it is really an important part of this forest.