Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), western Canada’s first officially endangered tree, reaches its northwest limit in our backyard, the mountains of north central BC. Its huge, nutritious seeds are dispersed by a bird –the Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)–rendering it particularly vulnerable to a changing environment. Fifteen years ago, against the backdrop of BC’s devastating mountain beetle epidemic, the Bulkley Valley Research Centre in Smithers began a collaborative research program to better understand the dynamics of this curious tree species, and to develop practical techniques for restoring healthy whitebark pine ecosystems. Alana examined factors influencing the northwest distribution of whitebark pine to predict the impacts of a changing climate. Alternate foods for Clark’s Nutcracker (Douglas-fir seeds) proved to be an important factor limiting northern whitebark pine. She will describe the role of climate, landscape connectivity and disturbances affecting whitebark pine’s current northwest distribution that create the need and opportunity for restoration. Sybille’s work has focused on locating and propagating hardy, blister-rust resistant genotypes suitable for northern BC and establishing trials to identify the most promising locations and planting strategies for restoration and assisted tree migration. This work is bearing fruit at the same time that wildfires have disturbed vast areas of current and potential whitebark pine habitat. We are pleased to assist the BC government, First Nations and others across northern BC to scale-up restoration efforts to address the unfolding crisis. But we emphasize that an ecosystem-based approach that considers the food-web interactions across the wider landscape will be needed for success.
The Natural Resources & Environmental Studies Institute (NRESi) at UNBC hosts a weekly lecture series at the Prince George campus. Anyone from the university or wider community with interest in the topic area is welcome to attend. Go to http://www.unbc.ca/nres-institute/colloquium-webcasts to view the presentation remotely.
Past NRESi colloquium presentations and special lectures can be viewed on our video archive, available here.
Al Wiensczyk, RPF
Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute