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Whitebark Pine Prevalence and Ecological Function in Treeline Communities of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, U.S.A.: Potential Disruption by White Pine Blister Rust

Author(s): Aaron C. Wagner, Diana F. Tomback, Lynn M. Resler, Elizabeth R. Pansing
Year Published: 2018
Description:

In the northern Rocky Mountains of the U.S. and Canada, whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) is a functionally important species in treeline communities. The introduced fungal pathogen Cronartium ribicola, which causes white pine blister rust, has led to extensive whitebark pine mortality nearly rangewide. We examined four treeline communities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) to assess structure and composition, whitebark pine prevalence and functional role, differences in growing season mesoclimate among study areas, and blister rust infection incidence. We found that (1) whitebark pine frequently serves as the majority overall, solitary, and leeward tree island conifer; (2) the prevalence of different tree species in the windward position in tree islands, and thus their potential as tree island initiators, may be predicted from their relative abundance as solitary trees; and (3) white pine blister rust infection incidence ranged from 0.6% to 18.0% across study areas. White pine blister rust poses a threat to treeline development and structure and the provision of ecosystem services in the GYE. Increasing blister rust resistance in nearby subalpine whitebark pine communities through seedling planting or direct seeding projects should eventually result in higher levels of blister rust resistance in whitebark pine in treeline communities.

Citation: Wagner AC, Tomback DF, Resler LM, Pansing ER. 2018. Whitebark Pine Prevalence and Ecological Function in Treeline Communities of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, U.S.A.: Potential Disruption by White Pine Blister Rust. Forests 9 (10), 635. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9100635 
Topic(s): Fire & Wildlife, Invertebrates
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18305
Record updated: Oct 3, 2019