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Southwestern white pine - threats to the species in a changing world

Date: October 19, 2017

Collaborative research is quantifying adaptive variation in tree species across the western United States and predicting changes in species distribution and ability to adapt in the face of global change


Southwestern white pine is a keystone tree species in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico montane ecosystems. These trees are a critical component both of forest composition and are also a critical source of food for a large number of animal species. The species faces several threats, including the spread of the blister rust pathogen into the species range and ongoing climate change.
White pine blister rust on southwestern white pine
White pine blister rust on southwestern white pine
A collaborative research team is looking at the effects of climate change and invasive blister-rust on the distribution and adaptive evolution of southwestern white pine. The research combines population-wide genomic data collection, common garden manipulative experiments, pathogen resistance trials and simulation modeling to understand and predict the effects of climate change and blister rust on the distribution, abundance, gene flow and adaptive evolution of the species across its range.
Dr. Sam Cushman is leading a small team of population modelers to predict current and future distribution of the species, patterns of gene flow and potential interactions of adaptive response to climate change with spreading blister rust pathogen.


  • RMRS team has used simulation modeling to confirm the best way to measure genetic distances for landscape genetic analysis of tree species response to climate change.
  • RMRS team has used simulation modeling to identify the best statistical modeling approach to predict the drivers of gene flow in complex landscapes.

Featured Publications

Shirk, A. J. ; Landguth, E. L. ; Cushman, Samuel A. , 2017

Principal Investigators: 
Principal Investigators - External: 
Dr. Kristen Waring - Northern Arizona University
Forest Service Partners: 
Dr. Richard Sniezko, Dorena Genetic Resource Center
Research Location: 
Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico