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Forests 2016, 7(3), 54; doi:10.3390/f7030054

Complex Challenges of Maintaining Whitebark Pine in Greater Yellowstone under Climate Change: A Call for Innovative Research, Management, and Policy Approaches

1
Department of Ecology, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173460, Bozeman, MT 59717-3460, USA
2
Inventory and Monitoring Division, Greater Yellowstone Network, National Park Service, 2327 University Way Ste 2, Bozeman, MT 59715, USA
3
USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 U.S. Hwy 10, Missoula, MT 59808, USA
4
Plant Science and Plant Pathology Department, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173150, Bozeman, MT 59717-3150, USA
The authors who contribute equally.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Jürgen Bauhus and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 17 February 2016 / Accepted: 17 February 2016 / Published: 27 February 2016
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Abstract

Climate suitability is projected to decline for many subalpine species, raising questions about managing species under a deteriorating climate. Whitebark pine (WBP) (Pinus albicaulis) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) crystalizes the challenges that natural resource managers of many high mountain ecosystems will likely face in the coming decades. We review the system of interactions among climate, competitors, fire, bark beetles, white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), and seed dispersers that make WBP especially vulnerable to climate change. A well-formulated interagency management strategy has been developed for WBP, but it has only been implemented across <1% of the species GYE range. The challenges of complex climate effects and land allocation constraints on WBP management raises questions regarding the efficacy of restoration efforts for WBP in GYE. We evaluate six ecological mechanisms by which WBP may remain viable under climate change: climate microrefugia, climate tolerances, release from competition, favorable fire regimes, seed production prior to beetle-induced mortality, and blister-rust resistant trees. These mechanisms suggest that WBP viability may be higher than previously expected under climate change. Additional research is warranted on these mechanisms, which may provide a basis for increased management effectiveness. This review is used as a basis for deriving recommendations for other subalpine species threatened by climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; whitebark pine; resource management; policy; Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem climate change; whitebark pine; resource management; policy; Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hansen, A.; Ireland, K.; Legg, K.; Keane, R.; Barge, E.; Jenkins, M.; Pillet, M. Complex Challenges of Maintaining Whitebark Pine in Greater Yellowstone under Climate Change: A Call for Innovative Research, Management, and Policy Approaches. Forests 2016, 7, 54.

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