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Complex challenges of maintaining whitebark pine in Greater Yellowstone under climate change: A call for innovative research, management, and policy approaches

Posted date: April 21, 2016
Publication Year: 
2016
Authors: Hansen, Andrew; Ireland, Kathryn; Legg, Kristin; Keane II, Robert E.; Barge, Edward; Jenkins, Martha; Pillet, Michiel
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forests. 7(3): 54.

Abstract

Climate suitability is projected to decline for many subalpine species, raising questions about managing species under a deteriorating climate. Whitebark pine (WBP) (Pinus albicaulis) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) crystalizes the challenges that natural resource managers of many high mountain ecosystems will likely face in the coming decades. We review the system of interactions among climate, competitors, fire, bark beetles, white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), and seed dispersers that make WBP especially vulnerable to climate change. A well-formulated interagency management strategy has been developed for WBP, but it has only been implemented across <1% of the species GYE range. The challenges of complex climate effects and land allocation constraints on WBP management raises questions regarding the efficacy of restoration efforts for WBP in GYE.We evaluate six ecological mechanisms by which WBP may remain viable under climate change: climate microrefugia, climate tolerances, release from competition, favorable fire regimes, seed production prior to beetle-induced mortality, and blister-rust resistant trees. These mechanisms suggest that WBP viability may be higher than previously expected under climate change. Additional research is warranted on these mechanisms, which may provide a basis for increased management effectiveness. This review is used as a basis for deriving recommendations for other subalpine species threatened by climate change.

Citation

Hansen, Andrew; Ireland, Kathryn; Legg, Kristin; Keane, Robert; Barge, Edward; Jenkins, Martha; Pillet, Michiel. 2016. Complex challenges of maintaining whitebark pine in Greater Yellowstone under climate change: A call for innovative research, management, and policy approaches. Forests. 7(3): 54.