Major declines of whitebark pine forests throughout western North America from the combined effects of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) outbreaks, fire exclusion policies, and the exotic disease white pine blister rust (WPBR) have spurred many restoration actions. However, projected future warming and drying may further exacerbate the species’ decline and possibly compromise long-term success of today’s restoration activities.We evaluated successes of restoration treatments under future climate using a comprehensive landscape simulation experiment. The spatially explicit, ecological process model FireBGCv2 was used to simulate whitebark pine populations on two U.S. Northern Rocky Mountain landscapes over 95 years under two climate, three restoration, and two fire management scenarios. Major findings were that (1) whitebark pine can remain on some high mountain landscapes in a future climate albeit at lower basal areas (50% decrease), (2) restoration efforts, such as thinning and prescribed burning, are vital to ensure future whitebark pine forests, and (3) climate change impacts on whitebark pine vary by local setting. Whitebark pine restoration efforts will mostly be successful in the future but only if future populations are somewhat resistant to WPBR. Results were used to develop general guidelines that address climate change impacts for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating fine-scale restoration activities.
Keane, Robert E.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Mahalovich, Mary F.; Tomback, Diana F. 2017. Evaluating future success of whitebark pine ecosystem restoration under climate change using simulation modeling. Restoration Ecology 25(2):220-233.