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Changes in blister rust infection and mortality in whitebark pine over time

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Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.), a keystone species in subalpine ecosystems of western North America, is under threat across its range from white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle, fire exclusion, and climate change. Loss of whitebark pine is predicted to have cascading effects on many ecosystem services. We remeasured 115 whitebark pine plots in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to determine whether infection and mortality rates from blister rust were changing over time and (or) latitude. Average rust infection of trees among plots increased from 42% in 2003–2004 to 52% in 2009, while mortality increased from 18% to 28%. In eight plots that have been measured three times, infection increased from 43% of live trees in 1996 to 70% in 2003 and 78% in 2009. Mortality increased from 26% to 65% in the same time period. Overall, infection and mortality have increased 3%/year over the 13 years of the study. Incidence of infection and mortality was highest among plots in the southern part of the study area, particularly on the western side of the Continental Divide. The slowing rates of infection and mortality that we found suggest that some level of natural selection may already be occurring in areas with high levels of both.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Parks Canada, Jasper National Park, P.O. Box 10, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada. 2: Tierra Environmental Consulting, 4711 Galena Street, Windermere, BC V0B 2L2, Canada. 3: Parks Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park, P.O. Box 200, Waterton Park, AB T0K 2M0, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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