Navigation Links
Conservation of whitebark pine may hinge on preservation of ponderosa

The caching of whitebark pine seeds by the Clark's nutcracker in late summer and early fall may not be enough to regenerate populations of the imperiled conifer in most of its range, scientists have found.

Their researchwhich is featured in the February issue of Science Findings, a monthly publication of the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Stationsuggests, for the first time, that the success of whitebark pine restoration may be linked to the conservation of another tree species: ponderosa pine.

"Whitebark pine is a keystone species in the high-mountain ecosystems of the northern Rockies, Cascades, Olympics, and eastern Sierra Nevada because it plays a major role in creating suitable conditions for the growth of other plants and in supplying seeds, which are consumed by a number of animals," said Martin Raphael, a research wildlife biologist with the station and one of the study's collaborators. "But the species is in trouble and is experiencing declines of 45 percent across some of its range."

Regeneration of the high-elevation treewhich is threatened today by outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle and blister rustwould seem intimately tied to the foraging behavior of the Clark's nutcracker, a crow-sized bird that propagates the tree by removing its large seeds from its cones and caching them in the ground. Unlike most other pines, the cones of whitebark trees do not open on their own to release their seeds, but must be forced open by Clark's nutcrackers. The birds' spatial memory allows them to retrieve seeds from many of their caches throughout the year; those that remain are left to germinate.

"The nutcrackers flock around whitebark pine stands in autumn as the cones ripen and use their sharp, strong bills to hammer into the tightly closed cones and dig out the seeds," said Teresa Lorenz, a doctoral student who led the study, along with Raphael and Forest Service geneticist Carol Aubry, as part of her master's degree studies at Utah State University. "You can see the cone chips flying."

In the study, aimed at determining how effective the birds are in regenerating whitebark pine, the researchers fitted 54 Clark's nutcrackers in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains with radio collars and tracked them for three seasons. They found that:

The nutcrackers foraged widely for whitebark pine seeds, but transported nearly all of them back to their home ranges for caching, which suggests that natural generation of the tree would be greatest within the birds' home ranges

The nutcrackers transported seeds over much longer distances than previously observed, sometimes up to 20 miles, which suggests that the birds facilitate a great amount of genetic mixing of the tree

The nutcrackers tended to cache their seeds in sheltered locations at the driest, lowest elevation sites within their rangeareas unsuitable for successful whitebark pine germination

"One of the most important things this study helped us to understand is how unlikely it is that whitebark pine seeds will end up in good germination spots," Raphael said. "Birds placed only about 15 percent of the seeds they gathered in places where germination is actually possible."

In addition to revealing that Clark's nutcracker caching alone, while critical, would not be sufficient to recover populations of whitebark pine, the study also is the first to document the role of the birds in disseminating the seeds of ponderosa pine. The nutcrackers not only routinely gathered ponderosa pine seeds within their home ranges, but were more effective in dispersing them to suitable germination sites than they were at dispersing whitebark pine seeds.

"Because we found ponderosa pine seeds to be an important food for nutcrackers in Washington and Oregon, the success of whitebark pine restoration may be irrevocably linked to the conservation of low-elevation ponderosa pine," Lorenz said. "What we've found can help managers focus restoration efforts and may help them refine seed boundaries and identify the likeliest regeneration sites."


Contact: Yasmeen Sands
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

Related biology news :

1. Are we trading energy conservation for toxic air emissions?
2. Case Western Reserve University project ties soil conservation and river management together
3. North American environmental commission launches trinational vaquita conservation plan
4. Conservation International gets support from Dreamworks Animation to protect giant pandas
5. Natural Capital Project to develop conservation software
6. Smithsonian scientists receive coveted BBVA Ecology and Conservation Award
7. Darwin anniversary heralds new conservation research era for Northern Ireland
8. Wildlife Conservation Society helps Cameroon create new national park
9. Prairie dog research promotes caring, conservation
10. Conservationists seek to identify prime stopover sites for migrating birds
11. Wildlife Conservation Society supports worlds first study of egg-laying mammal
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... Paris from 17 th until 19 th ... from 17 th until 19 th November 2015.   ... the first combined scanner in the world which scans both ... two different scanners were required: one for passports and one ... same surface. This innovation is an ideal solution for electronic ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever that stayed ... dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead for treating ... the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the ... . Cell, pinpoints a protective ... the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab of ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... 2015 About signature verification ... to identify and verify the identity of an ... the secure and accurate method of authentication and ... individual because each individual,s signature is highly unique. ... dynamic signature of an individual is compared and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific ... contract research organisation (CRO) market. The trend of ... in lower margins but higher volume share for ... capacity and scale, however, margins in the CRO ... Organisation (CRO) Market ( ), finds ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper is an essential ... bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With a $1.3 million ... (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... PHILADELPIA, PA (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... young entrepreneurs at competitive events in five states to develop and pitch their BIG ... student projects from each state are competing for votes to win the title of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... (the "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 ... Common Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") ... agreement were exercised on November 23, 2015, which ... Common Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance ...
Breaking Biology Technology: