Whitebark pine, a foundation species at tree line in the Western U.S. and Canada, has declined due to native mountain pine beetle epidemics, wildfire, and white pine blister rust. These declines are concerning for the multitude of ecosystem and human benefits provided by this species. An understanding of the climatic correlates associated with spread is needed to successfully manage impacts from forest pathogens. Since 2000 mountain pine beetles have killed 75% of the mature cone-bearing trees in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and 40.9% of monitored trees have been infected with white pine blister rust. We identified models of white pine blister rust infection which indicated that an August and September interaction between relative humidity and temperature are better predictors of white pine blister rust infection in whitebark pine than location and site characteristics in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The climate conditions conducive to white pine blister rust occur throughout the ecosystem, but larger trees in relatively warm and humid conditions were more likely to be infected between 2000 and 2018. We mapped the infection probability over the past two decades to identify coarse-scale patterns of climate conditions associated with white pine blister rust infection in whitebark pine.
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