National Park Service

Upper Columbia Basin Network (UCBN)

Limber Pine Monitoring

Limber pine tree at Craters of the Moon NMP
Limber pine tree at Craters of the Moon NMP

Limber Pine Monitoring Resource Briefs

Limber Pine Monitoring Reports

Limber Pine Monitoring Protocol & Procedures

For more information contact: Tom Rodhouse

Parks Monitored

Note: This protocol has been developed in collaboration with the Sierra Nevada and Klamath Networks, and has been implemented in parks in those networks as well.

Importance / Issues

  • Throughout the West, limber pine is suffering extensive, heavy mortality due to the invasive exotic fungal disease white-pine blister rust. Blister rust causes tree cankers which often results in cessation of cone production and in many cases, death of the tree.
  • Limber pine contributes significantly to the biodiversity of Craters of the Moon NM & P, and is an integral part of the park's striking landscape. The presence of limber pine woodlands dramatically contributes to visitor experience. Blister rust infection was first documented in Craters of the Moon NM & P in 2006 and infection has persisted in a few trees in the northern edge of the park. To date the disease does not appear to have spread south into the sparse pine woodlands that occur across the vast lava flows in the Preserve.
  • Climate change is predicted to further stress limber pine populations, and may exacerbate or accelerate rates of blister rust infection and other diseases, including limber pine mistletoe and mountain pine beetles. A closely related species, whitebark pine, is being considered for protection under the US Endangered Species Act due to the interactions of blister rust, pine beetle, and climate change.
  • Monitoring of blister rust infection in limber pine populations will contribute to the understanding of landscape and stand level changes in population dynamics of limber pine as well as allow researchers to detect trend data needed to assess current outbreak status and develop an appropriate management response to blister rust infection and mountain pine beetle outbreaks. This monitoring will also add to the region-wide investigations into high-elevation 5-needle pine (i.e., whitebark and foxtail pines) disease and population dynamics, generally.
  • Because the limber pine population at Craters of the Moon NM & P is occurring at the very edge of its physiological tolerance, it represents an important "peripheral" population that may preserve valuable genetic diversity and will provide unique insights into how the species may respond to accelerated climate change.

Monitoring Objectives

Determine the status and trend in the following aspects of CRMO limber pine communities:

  • Tree species composition and structure
  • Tree species birth, death, and growth rates
  • Incidence of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) and level of crown kill
  • Incidence of pine beetle (Dendroctonus spp.) and severity of tree damage
  • Incidence of dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium spp.) and severity of tree damage
  • Cone production of white pine species

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Last Updated: April 05, 2017 Contact Webmaster