Habitat Types


"In brainstorming about what species need to survive, I identified four essential elements - Water, Shelter, Food, and Space! I bet the plants and animals that live in the longleaf forest all depend on the forest to provide these things."

Nina is right! Species living in the longleaf forest depend on a healthy ecosystem, including the forest and each other - to provide these essential elements of a habitat. But - the longleaf forest is not all the same, so you won't find the same species of plants and animals living everywhere. There are four categories of habitat types found in the longleaf forest, which you can see in the map below.

Coastal Plain Habitat

Forests located in the Coastal Plains region of the longleaf pine range are found at 130 to 250 feet above sea level. The land is characterized as having rolling hills and habitat that insures well drained soil. It is thought that 30% of the historic range was rolling hill habitat. This habitat type depends on fire every 1-3 years to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Flatwoods Habitat

The Flatwoods & Savannah habitat is dominated by tall longleaf pine trees that can reach up to 120 feet. Low and flat, this area has poorly drained soils with frequent swampy areas or wet prairies. Flatwoods start just above the tide line (where salt water can't reach) and extends inland up to about 130 feet above sea level. This longleaf pine habitat type has the highest diversity of ground cover of herbs and shrubs. Since the soils are relatively poorly drained and have low levels of available nutrients, numerous species of orchids and carnivorous plants are common. This type of habitat depends on fire about every 3-5 years to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Montane Habitat

Historically, longleaf pine forests dominated southern and southwestern slopes and ridgelines up to about 2000 feet above sea level in north Alabama and northwest Georgia. This habitat also includes an isolated ridge starting at Pine Mountain, GA and extending to Thomson, GA. Since much of the northern boundary of the longleaf pine is found in this habitat type, the forest gradually transitions from all longleaf pine to a mix of tree species in its northern borders. Soil in this habitat type tends to be rockier. Fires every 3-5 years in this habitat type keeps the ecosystem healthy.

Sandhills Habitat

Characterized by sandy ridges of loose sand that starts in southern Virginia and runs through west Georgia at about 500 to 600 feet above sea level. A few isolated sandridges exist on the Florida panhandle and peninsula. Longleaf Pine sandhills are characterized as a forest of widely spaced pine trees with a fire-stunted understory of deciduous (scrub) oaks and a sparse ground cover of grasses and herbs. Today, sandhill longleaf sites make up some of the largest acreages of remaining longleaf pine habitat (despite comprising roughly 10% of the original landscape). Sandhills habitat depend on fire every 5-7 years to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

"Did you know that these different habitat types are based on soil, topography, and climate? Different species depend on different conditions, so the easiest way to talk about species living in the longleaf forest is to organize them into the habitat type."

Enter your school or home address into the map above to see if you live within a particular habitat type or close to one. Click on the button for that habitat type to learn about the plant and animal species that live there.


Question to Ponder

What longleaf habitat type is your house or school located within, or close to? Note: if you aren't close to any, you can choose one!  Based on what you have learned about this habitat type, what features do you think are important to the survival of the plant and animals species that live here?