We used data collected from >1400 plots by a national forest inventory to quantify population-level indicators for a tree species of concern. Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) has recently experienced high mortality throughout its US range, where we assessed the area of land with whitebark pine present, size-class distribution of individual whitebark pine, growth rates, and mortality rates, all with respect to dominant forest type. As of 2016, 51% of all standing whitebark pine trees in the US were dead. Dead whitebark pines outnumbered live ones - and whitebark pine mortality outpaced growth - in all size classes ≥ 22.8 cm diameter at breast height (DBH), across all forest types. Although whitebark pine occurred across 4.1 million ha in the US, the vast majority of this area (85%) and of the total number of whitebark pine seedlings (72%) fell within forest types other than the whitebark pine type. Standardized growth of whitebark pines was most strongly correlated with the relative basal area of whitebark pine trees (rho = 0.67; p < 0.01), while both standardized growth and mortality were moderately correlated with relative whitebark pine stem density (rho = 0.39 and 0.40; p = 0.031 and p < 0.01, respectively). Neither growth nor mortality were well correlated with total stand basal area, total stem density, or stand mean diameter. The abundance, extent, and relative growth vs. mortality rates of whitebark pine in multiple forest types presents opportunities for management to encourage whitebark pine recruitment in mixed-species stands. The lodgepole pine forest type contained more whitebark pine seedlings (35%) than any other forest type, suggesting that this forest type represents a potential management target for silvicultural treatments that seek to facilitate the recruitment of whitebark pine seedlings into larger size classes. National forest inventories in other countries may use a similar approach to assess species of concern.
Goeking, Sara A.; Izlar, Deborah Kay. 2018. Pinus albicaulis Engelm. (whitebark pine) in mixed-species stands throughout its US range: Broad-scale indicators of extent and recent decline. Forests. 9: 131.