High-elevation Pine Monitoring

A bristle cone pine illuminated by the night sky.
Bristlecone pines, like the one pictured here, are some of the more long-lived and resilient high-elevation species.

High-elevation pines, including whitebark pine, limber pine, and bristlecone pine, can be found up and down the full range of the Rocky Mountains. They must withstand harsh growing conditions, including cold temperatures, severe winds, and a short growing season.

These pines play important roles where they grow, regulating processes such as snowmelt, stream flow, and soil stabilization. They provide habitat and food for birds and mammals; their large and nutritious seeds are prized by wildlife including Clark's Nutcrackers, black bears, and ground squirrels. Other wildlife use trees for shelter. Whitebark pine canopies support lichens and other plants.

All western species of five-needle white pines are threatened by an invasive pathogen that causes the disease white pine blister rust. The threats of blister rust and mountain pine beetle coupled with projections of increased temperature and changes in type and timing of precipitation heighten the importance of monitoring white pine forests.

Check out this video on monitoring high-elevation forests in the Sierra Nevada.

Learn more about montane forests

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    Last updated: January 11, 2022