Whitebark pine is a high-elevation keystone tree species that grows throughout much of the western United States. It provides a critical habitat for wildlife, such as grizzly bears, influences soil and snow processes, and provides natural resources valued by the public. These trees are currently subjected to multiple threats, including attack by the mountain pine beetle, an aggressive bark beetle that has recently killed more than hundreds of thousands of acres of whitebark pine. Studies show that climate warming is an important factor in the outbreak occurrence of this beetle. Future climate change is expected to increase the number, frequency, and/or severity of these beetle epidemics.
This project will develop a model of mountain pine beetle outbreaks in whitebark pine using observations of beetle-killed trees, climate, and general tree conditions. The model will be used to map the probability of outbreaks in current climate conditions, as well as in future climate change scenarios. This study will increase understanding of climate/beetle relationships and produce estimates of the future vulnerability of whitebark pine to guide resource managers’ decisions on conservation and treatment efforts.