Whitebark pine expansion due to climate change on an elevational gradient in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Authors: Ryne Ruddock*, Indiana State University - EES, Jim Speer, Indiana State University, Margot Kaye, Pennsylvania State University, Rebecca Franklin, Central Oregon Community College, Ben Hagedorn, Western Washington University, Leah Cort, Radford University, Abby Goszka, Ohio University, Jessie Simpson, Natrual Resources Canada - Pacific Forestry Center, Sarah Smith, Ohio University
Topics: Biogeography, Environmental Science
Keywords: Whitebark pine, climate change, establishment, decline, mortality
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Forest decline and mortality has been observed at various scales around the world at elevated rates beyond previous centuries observations. It is likely that a complex interaction of multiple stressors including temperature, moisture, insect outbreaks, and fire are causing this decline. This study uses tree rings and remote sensing to examine these stressors on tree growth and mortality to determine the driving factors of forest decline in our site. We established a linear transect down the south facing slope of Bird Mountain in Shoshone National Forest, WY which is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Five sites were sampled along the transect, approximately 250m apart, ranging from a peak elevation of 3,028m and the lowest elevation of 2,827m. Two increment cores were extracted at breast height from the 10 nearest trees to plot center, and all saplings were harvested within these plots to determine establishment dates across the elevational gradient. Each core was skeleton plotted, measured, and run through the program COFECHA. The data was standardized using basal area increment to remove the age-related growth trend but maintain effects of ecology. The study included 171 dated series spanning 189 years from present from mostly Pinus albicaulis and Pinus contorta. We found that from 1895 – 2015 mean temperatures have increased by nearly 2° C. Our data showed a shift in establishment and stand composition across the elevational gradient. Whitebark pine is establishing at higher altitudes and encroaching the alpine meadow, while also establishing at lower elevations in lodgepole pine forests.

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