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#06-136 May 22, 2006

Atlantic white-cedar wetlands being restored in South Carolina

Atlantic-white-cedar swamps, which were once a common part of the South Carolina landscape but have largely disappeared, are the focus of several restoration efforts in the state. Nationwide attention will be drawn to Atlantic white-cedar ecosystems during a June 6-8 symposium to be held in Atlantic City, N.J.

Atlantic white-cedar wetlands are scattered along South Carolina’s blackwater streams, for the most part in the Sandhills/Fall Line region of the state. Locally known as “juniper,” Atlantic white-cedar typically grows in boggy areas where peat overlies sand. The species was once common in the Carolinas, but over-utilization of its valuable aromatic wood, combined with draining and flooding of wetlands and disruptions to the fire regime, have relegated it to vestigial patches.

Juniper swamps can be seen on the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Aiken Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Aiken County, Shealy’s Pond Heritage Preserve in Lexington County, Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve in Darlington County, and the Waccamaw River Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Horry County as well as Sandhills State Forest and Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, both in Chesterfield County. See DNR Managed Lands>>>

The first and largest Atlantic white-cedar restoration project in the state is on Shaw Air Force Base, in Sumter County, where the base’s environmental staff, headed by Terry Madewell, restored the species to a Carolina bay. Johnny Stowe, DNR wildlife biologist and heritage preserve manager, was inspired by Madewell’s project, and has since restored juniper to several sites on state land.

“Juniper is a keystone member of a unique ecosystem that was once common in parts of South Carolina,” Stowe said. “The numerous place-names denoted on local maps, such as Cedar Creek, Juniper Bay and Cedar Branch, testify to the importance of this species in our state’s history.”

The June 6-8 symposium in New Jersey, officially titled “The Ecology and Management of Atlantic White-Cedar Ecosystems,” will address approaches used to characterize and monitor Atlantic white-cedar ecosystem hydrology, soils, biogeochemical cycling, nutrient fluxes, plant physiological ecology, biodiversity, genetics, pathology, wildlife biology, threatened and endangered species, fisheries and aquatic resources, silvicultural techniques, paleoecology, bird conservation, taxonomy, and ecological conservation/integrity at the local and landscape scale.

For more information on Atlantic white-cedar, see the March-April 2003 edition of South Carolina Wildlife magazine, contact Stowe at (803) 419-9374 in Columbia, or visit the Atlantic white-cedar Alliance’s Web site at http://www.stockton.edu/~wcedars/alliance_group.htm. To get information about the June 6-8 meeting in Atlantic City, contact the Wetlands and Watersheds Work Group at (540) 286-0072 or http://www.wetlandsworkgroup.org/AtlanticWhiteCedar/index.htm.
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