Climate Change and Whitebark Pine: A compelling reason for restoration

NEW PAPER by Robert Keane, et alClimate Change and Whitebark Pine: Compelling reasons for restoration

There is confusion in the research and management communities about the fate of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) as climates slowly warm.  Many feel that projected warmer conditions will severely reduce whitebark pine habitat and push whitebark pine off the tops of mountains or restrict the species to north of the Canadian border (Koteen 1999; Schrag et al. 2008; Warwell et al. 2007).

These speculations have been used by some land managers and agency leaders to discontinue whitebark pine restoration activities and funding.  Others feel that climate-mediated changes in the disturbance regimes will serve to keep whitebark pine within its current range, albeit at lower levels (Loehman et al. 2011).  The reality, of course, is more complex because of high uncertainty in regional climate change predictions, the high genetic diversity and resilience of the species, and the localized changes in disturbance regimes and interactions.

Therefore, we suggest that the question of whether to restore whitebark pine is not dependent on future climates since we really can’t predict them, and, more importantly, we cannot predict how landscapes will respond to them, but restoration is instead dependent on whether society can afford the loss of this widely distributed foundation and keystone species and the ecosystems that it creates (Tomback et al. 2001a).

Read the full article HERE.

skeleton Ben Wilson