Restoring Whitebark Pine Ecosystems in the Face of Climate Change

Robert E. Keane, Lisa M. Holsinger, Mary F. Mahalovich, Diana F. Tomback
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 11/07/2023

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Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forests have been declining throughout their range in western North America from the combined effects of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) outbreaks, fire exclusion policies, and the exotic disease white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola).

Projected warming and drying trends in climate may exacerbate this decline; however, whitebark pine has a wide climatic tolerance because of its broad distribution coupled with high genetic diversity. A rangewide whitebark pine restoration strategy was developed recently to inform restoration efforts for whitebark pine across Federal, State, and Provincial land management agencies. This strategy, however, did not address the effects of climate change on existing whitebark pine populations and restoration efforts. In this report, we present guidelines for restoring whitebark pine under future climates using the rangewide restoration strategy structure.

The information to create the guidelines came from two sources: (1) a comprehensive review of the literature and (2) a modeling experiment that simulated various climate change, management, and fire exclusion scenarios.

The general guidelines presented here are to be used with the rangewide strategy to address climate change impacts for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating fine-scale restoration activities for whitebark pine by public land management agencies.


Keane, Robert E.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Mahalovich, Mary F.; Tomback, Diana F. 2017. Restoring whitebark pine ecosystems in the face of climate change. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-361. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 123 p.

Affiliated Organizations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is a Federal agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

Research has been part of the Forest Service mission since the agency’s inception in 1905. The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is an integral component of USDA Forest Service Research and Development (R&D).