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Forest Disturbance Processes

The physiology, genetics, and distribution of ponderosa pine species vary with changes in elevation and environmental conditions

[image:] Collecting needle and tree core samples Research Issue

Collecting data on tree populations as part of a forest indicator and monitoring system is important to confirm models for predicting climate change effects on individual forest stands.  Current developments in DNA sequencing methods aid research on plant responses to environmental stress including growth, water usage, and cross interbreeding to form hybrids – and Ponderosa pine species are prime candidates for study.

[photo:] Maturing pollen cones.Our Research

In the desert southwest, significant variations in moisture and temperature occur along steep gradients in elevation.  Notably, the endemic ponderosa pine species vary with changes in elevation and the differences in elevation are repeated throughout the ranges of the species.  The long-term goal of the study is to provide a foundation for future regional studies of species range limitations by water or temperature stress.  This information is vital to further increase our understanding of the movement of tree species within and between climate zones.  Our objective is to study genetic variation and constraints on woody plant growth based on habitat preference, primarily water availability. Study sites include three -south facing slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountain range where the species co-exist and are potentially hybridizing.  Two of the mountains have experienced fire in the last decade providing tremendous opportunity to study the naturally regenerating seedlings of surviving parental trees.

Expected Outcomes

The research will be valuable to scientists examining the stress response of plant species.  In addition, the conclusions will be useful to land managers for the study aims to describe in detail the spatial distribution of the two-pine species.  Such knowledge will provide viable options for long-term improvement of reforestation efforts and sustainable management of natural areas in the desert southwest.

Research Results

Thurston, Ginger; Marquardt, Paula; Telewski, Frank. 2014. The response of ponderosa pines Piinus arizonica and Taxon X to environmental stressors. University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, Michigan State University, April 10 (non-refereed abstract).

Smith, Joshua; Marquardt, Paula; Cronn, Richard; Telewski, Frank W.; Jennings, Tara; Willyard, Ann. 2013. Nuclear simple sequence repeats for ponderosa pine. Annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America, New Orleans July 27-31.

Marquardt, Paula. 2012. Physiology, genetics, the distribution of ponderosa pine species and climate. Dept. of Plant Biology, Proposal Defense. Michigan State University, October 18.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Paula Marquardt, US Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Plant Geneticist

Research Partner

Last Modified: March 23, 2015