Effective restoration of whitebark pine populations will require a solid understanding of factors affecting seedling recruitment success, which may vary by site and biogeographic region. We examined the relationship between whitebark pine seedling recruitment, disturbance history, and range position in three independent studies in the southern Sierra Nevada, California (CA), USA. In 66 plots broadly distributed across watersheds, we found that whitebark pine seedling density and proportion were greatest at upper elevations, and where canopy cover of whitebark pine was higher (density ranged 0–383 seedlings/ha;
= 4, σX
= 1). Seedling density and proportion were also greater in plots that had recently experienced loss of canopy cover from insects, avalanche, windthrow, or other disturbance effects. In a second study conducted in popular recreational areas, including campgrounds and trailheads, the response of whitebark pine recruitment to disturbance was strongly dependent on the relative position of stands within the range, or proximity to other forest types. Both studies indicated that low to moderate levels of disturbance enhanced whitebark pine recruitment, especially at its range edge, a finding consistent with the early seral status of whitebark observed in previous studies conducted elsewhere in North America. In our third study, a case study at the June Mt. Ski Area, we demonstrate the potential for a downward shift in the whitebark-lodgepole pine ecotone as a result of insect-caused disturbance.
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