Return of the king: Western white pine conservation and restoration in a changing climate
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Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 4. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.
Western white pine (Pinus monticola) is a species that used to dominate the forests of the Interior Northwest prior to the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 19th century. Its foundational role contributed to a landscape that was resilient, fire-adapted, and provided abundant suitable habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species. However, substantial harvesting and the early 20th century introduction of the invasive fungal pathogen that causes white pine blister rust disease combined with other factors to fundamentally alter the forested landscape of the Interior Northwest, reducing the extent of western white pine by 90%. As a result, other tree species that are generally fire-intolerant, less economically valuable, and more vulnerable to insects and disease now dominate a landscape that is regularly subject to fire. Now, as managers seek to restore damaged and degraded ecosystems in the Inland Northwest, new research is shedding light on the genetic structure and diversity of western white pine populations. While it would seem that many of these populations went through a bottleneck related to over-harvesting and blister rust pathogen, research is demonstrating that much genetic diversity remains. This diversity is greatest in southern populations, which existed well before northern populations; significantly, southern populations are also more threatened by climate change than northern populations. The scientists’ research can go a long way toward helping to inform western white pine conservation and restoration efforts in an era of climate change.
Keywordswestern white pine; Pinus monticola; climate change; restoration; conservation; Inland Northwest
Hines, Sarah; Klopfenstein, Ned; Richardson, Bryce; Warwell, Marcus; Kim, Mee-Sook. 2013. Return of the king: Western white pine conservation and restoration in a changing climate. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 4. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.