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Ecological roles of five-needle pine in Colorado: Potential consequences of their loss

Posted date: September 30, 2016
Publication Year: 
2004
Publication Series: 
Proceedings (P)
Source: In: Sniezko, Richard A.; Samman, Safiya; Schlarbaum, Scott E.; Kriebel, Howard B., eds. 2004. Breeding and genetic resources of five-needle pines: growth, adaptability and pest resistance; 2001 July 23-27; Medford, OR, USA. IUFRO Working Party 2.02.15. Proceedings RMRS-P-32. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 124-135.
Note: This article is part of a larger document.

Abstract

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis James) and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata Engelm.) are two white pines that grow in Colorado. Limber pine has a broad distribution throughout western North America while bristlecone pine’s distribution is almost entirely within the state of Colorado. White pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola J. C. Fisch.) was discovered in Colorado in 1998 and threatens populations of both species. Available information suggests that these species have several important ecological roles, such as (1) occupying and stabilizing dry habitats not likely to be occupied by other, less drought tolerant tree species, (2) defining ecosystem boundaries (treelines), (3) being among the first to colonize a site after fire, especially fires that cover large areas, (4) facilitating the establishment of high elevation late successional species such as Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir and (5) providing diet and habitat for animals. While the rust is not likely to eliminate five-needle pines from Colorado ecosystems, it is likely to impact species’ distributions, population dynamics and the functioning of the ecosystems. These changes may well affect (1) the distribution of forested land on the landscape, (2) the reforestation dynamics after fire, (3) the rate and possibly fate of forest succession, and (4) habitat for wildlife. Our incomplete understanding of the ecology, genetic structure and adaptive variation of limber pine and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine constrain our ability to rapidly develop and implement conservation programs.

Citation

Schoettle, A. W. 2004. Ecological roles of five-needle pine in Colorado: Potential consequences of their loss. In: Sniezko, Richard A.; Samman, Safiya; Schlarbaum, Scott E.; Kriebel, Howard B., eds. 2004. Breeding and genetic resources of five-needle pines: growth, adaptability and pest resistance; 2001 July 23-27; Medford, OR, USA. IUFRO Working Party 2.02.15. Proceedings RMRS-P-32. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 124-135.