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Individual Highlight

Conservation of bristlecone pine: proactive management today and resources for tomorrow

Photo of High-elevation bristlecone pines exhibiting characteristic partial cambial dieback and gnarled physiognomy at Bristlecone Park, Colorado (3676 m elevation).High-elevation bristlecone pines exhibiting characteristic partial cambial dieback and gnarled physiognomy at Bristlecone Park, Colorado (3676 m elevation).Snapshot : Rocky Mountain bristlecone pines are long-lived, exhibit delayed maturation, have low genetic diversity, and inhabit cold, high-elevation environments. They are threatened by the non-native disease white pine blister rust, warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and altered disturbance regimes. This is the first proactive coordinated range-wide seed and tissue collection and forest health assessment for a threatened, but not yet impacted, tree species and offers a model for other species at risk.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Schoettle, Anna W.  
Research Location : Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1357

Summary

Bristlecone pine seed and tissue collections from throughout the species’ range have been archived to provide timely opportunities for genetic, genomic, evolutionary, and ecological research as well as establish a baseline conservation ex situ collection and provide the beginnings of a seed bank to support proactive management efforts. The range-wide ecological assessment provides a baseline to compare future conditions and clues to bristlecone pine’s vulnerabilities and how to manage for increased resilience and adaptive capacity. Both cone production and seedling regeneration were linked to stand structure and ground cover providing opportunities for proactive management to increase population size to mitigate potential future climate- and pathogen-driven declines of this majestic species. Key Findings: The combination of low genetic diversity, moderate population isolation, and a protracted regeneration dynamic puts bristlecone pine populations at risk for extirpation by novel stresses.Bristlecone pine is threatened by the non-native disease white pine blister rust, warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and altered disturbance regimes.Successful regeneration is essential for population resilience and adaptive capacity.Proactive management can increase population size and mitigate potential future climate- and pathogen-driven declines.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Center for Environment and Sustainability at Western State Colorado University