Friday, February 1, 2013

Whitebark Pine a Potential Cultivar





This tree needs to be domesticated. Hybridization could also help to prepare a cultivar able to prosper in the boreal forest. We have already identified a couple of other such likely plants but a tree quite able to supplant the wild tree cover and that is also highly productive of ripe seed cones is an ideal option.

The apparent potential productivity also looks promising and they should be easy to harvest. The competition from the birds and squirrels can be partially suppressed by an active population of martens and fishers and their cousins. One has to get in to do the harvest as soon as the cones are ready from the sound of it.

One by one, we are identifying cultivars for the boreal forest and there remains no doubt that it can be done.

The problems talked about here will pass through a natural cycle and in time fully recover.


Mountain pine beetles threaten endangered whitebark pines

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun January 21, 2013

Mountain pine beetles have hammered more than B.C.’s lodgepole pine forests — they’ve taken endangered whitebark pine trees, robbing Interior grizzly bears and other species of an important food supply.

Slow-growing whitebark pine trees are rarer than lodgepole pine, grow at higher elevations, and produce cones with large seeds that form a food source for Clark’s nutcracker (which disperses them across the landscape), red squirrels, chipmunks, and pre-denning black bears and grizzlies. The latter species are of special concern in Canada.

Native people have also long eaten the seeds raw or roasted.

A new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports that a warmer climate has “increased access of native bark beetles to high-elevation pines that historically received only intermittent exposure.”

The study explains that whitebark pine have “inferior defences against mountain pine beetle compared with its historical lower-elevation host, lodgepole pine” and are vulnerable to “temperature-driven range expansions.”

Wayne McCrory, a consulting bear biologist from the Kootenays, said areas of the Chilcotin have some of the largest stands of whitebark pine in Western Canada. He said grizzlies are known to raid squirrel seed-caches and two of four grizzly scats he examined in the upper Taseko watershed last fall “were all pine-cone residue.”

Under ideal conditions, one baseball-sized cone can harbour 100 or more pea-sized seeds.

Whitebark pine in B.C. and Alberta are federally listed as endangered due to climate change, spread of the mountain pine beetle and white pine blister rust, as well as encroachment of subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce into the pine’s habitat due to human suppression of forest fires.

To help save the whitebark pine, a non-profit society has been formed to collect seeds, especially from healthy trees in stands riddled with blister rust. Some seeds are stored for future use and some are used for replanting seedlings.

Biologist Randy Moody, director of the recently formed Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada, said pine beetles go through a stand and kill the trees relatively quickly, whereas blister rust is a “slow burn” that poses a greater threat over the longer term.

A 2010 report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada noted the slow-growing whitebark pine does not produce sizable cone crops for 60 years and can live 500 to 1,000 years.

About 56 per cent of the tree’s habitat is in Canada, extending from the U.S. border to about 200 kilometres north of Fort St. James on the dry eastern side of the Coast Mountains and to about 150 kilometres north of Jasper in the Rocky Mountains.

COSEWIC estimates whitebark pine occupies about 561,000 hectares in B.C., of which about 34 per cent is infected with white pine blister rust, a disease introduced from Eurasia. It predicts about 70 per cent of B.C.’s whitebark pine habitat will be lost by 2055.

By comparison, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations estimates mountain pine beetle infestation in lodgepole pine trees covers more than 18 million hectares.




Mountain pine beetles have hammered more than B.C.’s lodgepole pine forests — they’ve taken endangered whitebark pine trees, robbing Interior grizzly bears and other species of an important food supply. Slow-growing whitebark pine trees are rarer than lodgepole pine, grow at higher elevations, and produce cones with large seeds that form a food source for Clark’s nutcracker (which disperses them across the landscape), red squirrels, chipmunks, and pre-denning black bears and grizzlies. The latter species are of special concern in Canada.

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