Monitoring direct and indirect climate effects on whitebark pine ecosystems at Crater Lake National park

Park Science
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Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is the distinctive, often stunted, and picturesque tree line species in the American West. As a result of climate change, mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) have moved up in elevation, adding to nonnative blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) disease as a major cause of mortality in whitebark pine. At Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, whitebark pine is declining at the rate of 1% per year. The Klamath Network, National Park Service, has elected to monitor whitebark pine and associated high-elevation vegetation. This program is designed to sample whitebark pine throughout the park to look for geographic patterns in its exposure to and mortality from disease and beetles. First-year monitoring has uncovered interesting patterns in blister rust distribution. Incidence of rust disease was higher on the west side of the park, where conditions are wetter and more humid than on the east side. However, correlating climate alone with rust disease is not straightforward. On the east side of the park, the odds of blister rust infection were much greater in plots having Ribes spp., shrubs that act as the alternate host for a portion of the rust's life cycle. However, on the park's west side, there was not a statistically significant increase in blister rust in plots with Ribes. This suggests that different species of Ribes associated with whitebark pine can increase pine exposure to blister rust disease. There is also convincing evidence of an association between total tree density and the incidence of blister rust. Warmer temperatures and possibly increased precipitation will affect both whitebark pine and Ribes physiology as well as tree density and mountain pine beetle numbers, all of which may interact with blister rust to cause future changes in tree line communities at Crater Lake. The Klamath Network monitoring program plans to document and study these ongoing changes.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Monitoring direct and indirect climate effects on whitebark pine ecosystems at Crater Lake National park
Series title Park Science
Volume 28
Issue 2
Year Published 2011
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Park Science
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