Limber pine is threatened by climate change, white pine blister rust, dwarf mistletoe, and mountain pine beetle. Over the next 15 years, limber pine is expected to experience a 40 percent reduction in basal area in the United States. In the province of Alberta, limber pine is already listed as an endangered species, and in 2014 limber pine was assessed as endangered nationally in Canada and is recommended for legal listing as such under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Whitebark pine has been impacted by the same threats and has been designated as warranting endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act in the United States and is listed in Canada under SARA. Research such as the International Limber Pine Provenance Study (ILPPS) will support proactive management to keep limber pine populations sustainable and prevent limber pine from following the same trajectory as whitebark pine.
Artificial regeneration with adapted seed sources is a recommended management approach to mitigate impacts and species decline. Limited information is available on genetic differentiation and seed transfer for limber pine – this study will fill that gap and help guide successful management practices throughout the United States and Canadian Rocky Mountains as well as serve as a seed orchard in the future. It will also provide fundamental scientific knowledge on adaptive variation, phenotypic plasticity, and climate associations.
Common garden plantings of limber pine seed sources in two contrasting environments have been established, one near the northernmost and the other near the southernmost species range extent in the Rocky Mountains, to assess adaptive trait (growth, physiology, phenology, etc.) variation and plasticity, and climate interactions (and possibly genomic associations, pending funding).
Thirty seed source populations included; 145 seedling families.
Seed sourced from U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, provincial, and state lands.
October 2016, two year old seedlings were planted at sites in central Alberta and Colorado.
The study is expected to continue for at least 10+ years with a target beyond tree maturity.
Seed movement limitations to support restoration projects will be developed in light of adaptive traits and geographic distribution of projected future climates.
Geographic variation in growth and phenology are beginning to be documented as well as other functional traits.