Canadian Forest Service Publications

Changes in white pine blister rust infection and mortality in limber pine over time. 2013. Smith, C.M.; Langor, D.W.; Myrholm, C.; Weber, J.; Gillies, C. Stuart-Smith, J. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 43:919-928.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35197

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2013-0072

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


Limber pine (Pinus flexilis E. James) is under threat from white pine blister rust (WPBR), mountain pine beetle, drought, and fire suppression across its range in western North America. In 2003–2004, we established 85 plots to assess the mortality and incidence of WPBR on limber pine, and remeasured them in 2009. Infection was evident in 74% of the plots in 2003–2004 and 88% of the plots in 2009. The proportion of dead trees increased from 32% in 2003–2004 to 35% in 2009. The percentage of live trees infected increased from 33% in 2003–2004 to 43% in 2009. Mean live limber pine basal area in 2009 ranged from 0.03 to 77.8 m2/ha per plot. Twenty (24%) of the plots had no seedlings in the first measurement, but only 15% in the second measurement. Seedling infection was low (8% in 2003–2004 and 4% in 2009). In 12 plots that were measured three times, mortality increased from 30% of all trees in 1996 to 50% in 2003, then decreased to 46% in 2009. Infection decreased from 73% of live trees in 1996 to 46% in 2003, then increased to 66% in 2009. High mortality and infection levels suggest that the long-term persistence of many limber pine populations in the southern part of the study area are in jeopardy, and continued monitoring is needed to assist with management decisions.

Plain Language Summary

This paper reports on surveys of the health of limber pine (LP), a tree that plays an important role in ecosystems, in Alberta and BC in 1996, 2003 and 2009. The surveys revealed the impact of an introduced Eurasian fungus, white pine blister rust (WPBR), on tree health and death. Based on data from 85 plots measured in both 2003 and 2009, we found the percentage of plots with WPBR infection increased from 74% to 88%, the percentage of trees infected by WPBR increased from 33% to 43%, and LP death increased from 32% to 35% over that period. Infection and death of LP was lower at the northern extremes of the species’ range. Infection of seedlings was low (8% in 2003 and 4% in 2009). The high death and infection levels of LP as a result of WPBR may eventually wipe out LP in the southern part of its Canadian range.