Whitebark Pine Management Guide Published
Don't expect the Clark's nutcracker, a jay-size bird named for the Lewis and Clark expedition's William Clark, to save the declining whitebark pine. That is the conclusion of Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists after they analyzed results of experimental ecosystem restoration projects at five sites in Idaho and Montana. Experiments using silviculture and prescribed burning created seed cone caching habitat for the nutcracker. But low cone crops led the bird to cache only small quantities of whitebark pine seed, and the nutcracker retrieved nearly all of the cache, leaving little for tree regeneration. Scientists who had studied the nutcracker in years when caching was plentiful found it did not claim about 40 percent of stored seed, which then became part of the whitebark pine regeneration seed bank. Decline of whitebark across its range in North America is attributed primarily to mountain pine beetle epidemics and white pine blister rust. The decline can negatively affect more than 110 animal species that eat seeds from the cones of whitebark pine. This research, spanning about 15 years, led to recent publication of a whitebark pine-focused management guide for ecosystem restoration.