The Inventory & Monitoring Division of the U.S. National Park Service conducts long-term monitoring to provide park managers information on the status and trends in biological and environmental attributes including white pines. White pines are foundational species in many subalpine ecosystems and are currently experiencing population declines. Here we present results on the status of whitebark and foxtail pine in the southern Sierra Nevada of California, an area understudied relative to other parts of their ranges. We selected random plot locations in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon national parks using an equal probability spatially-balanced approach. Tree- and plot-level data were collected on forest structure, composition, demography, cone production, crown mortality, and incidence of white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetle. We measured 7899 whitebark pine, 1112 foxtail pine, and 6085 other trees from 2012–2017. All factors for both species were spatially highly variable. Whitebark pine occurred in nearly-pure krummholz stands at or near treeline and as a minor component of mixed species forests. Ovulate cones were observed on 25% of whitebark pine and 69% of foxtail pine. Whitebark pine seedlings were recorded in 58% of plots, and foxtail pine seedlings in only 21% of plots. Crown mortality (8% in whitebark, 6% in foxtail) was low and significantly higher in 2017 compared to previous years. Less than 1% of whitebark and zero foxtail pine were infected with white pine blister rust and <1% of whitebark and foxtail pine displayed symptoms of mountain pine beetle attack. High elevation white pines in the southern Sierra Nevada are healthy compared to other portions of their range where population declines are significant and well documented. However, increasing white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetle occurrence, coupled with climate change projections, portend future declines for these species, underscoring the need for broad-scale collaborative monitoring.
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