Whitebark Pine Monitoring
Importance / Issues
Park populations of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), a keystone species in subalpine zones of the Network, are being heavily impacted by a non-native disease. White pine blister rust, a fungal infection caused by the pathogen Cronartium ribicola, which affects five-needle white pines, is killing significant numbers of whitebark pine.
Monitoring of the non-native invasive pathogen and its impacts on whitebark pine is consistent with our monitoring priorities. Changes resulting from the disease are likely to have profound, ecosystem-wide effects on our subalpine zones. Whitebark pine is the dominant timberline tree in subalpine habitats at Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Parks. This picturesque, long-lived, and hardy tree thrives at sites with harsh climates, where few or no other trees survive. The pine’s large and nutritious seeds are prized by wildlife including Clark’s Nutcrackers, black bears, golden-mantled ground squirrels, and in the past, grizzly bears. Elk, blue grouse, bats, and other wildlife use trees for shelter. Whitebark pine canopies support arboreal lichens and understory flora such as woodrush and currants and possibly facilitate other plant species as well. They also stabilize soil and regulate snowmelt.
Every year, nearly 500,000 people view southern Oregon’s Crater Lake from its pine-clad rim where the picturesque trees are the subject of postcards and artwork. Similarly, whitebark pine is emblematic of the picturesque high elevation zones of Lassen, which are also a major visitor destination in the Network. Loss of these trees undermines the health of park ecosystems and the National Park Service overriding goals of maintaining natural conditions for future generations and providing a high quality natural history experience for visitors.
Protocol Development & Status
Preliminary Monitoring Objectives