2011 Interagency WBP Monitoring Project for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Project: Interagency Whitebark Pine Monitoring Project for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Agency/Forest or Park/District:Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF, Bridger-Teton NF, Custer NF, Caribou-Targhee NF, Gallatin NF, Grand Teton NP, Shoshone NF, and Yellowstone NP

Size of treated Area (Ac, trees, etc/NA):  This is an ecosystem wide project.

Project Coordinator: Cathie Jean, I&M Program Management Assistant, USDI NPS Greater Yellowstone Network, 2327 University Way Suite 2, Bozeman, MT 59715; cathie_jean@nps.gov, 406-994-7530

Kristin Legg, I&M Program Manager, USDI NPS Greater Yellowstone Network, 2327 University Avenue, Suite 2, Bozeman, MT 59717, Kristin_legg@nps.gov, 406-994-7734 (starting October 2010)


The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group consists of representatives from the GYCC Whitebark Pine Subcommittee which include the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, and Statisticians from Montana State University (MSU). The NPS Greater Yellowstone Inventory and Monitoring Network (GRYN) provides management of the project from headquarters in Bozeman, MT,

Source of funding/amount

FHP: $7,500

Supplemental funding: $51,308 NPS-GRYN, $20,000 USGS, $5,000 Gallatin NF

Dates of restoration efforts:

Summer 2011 – completed


Our primary objective in 2011 is to complete the resurvey of 44 permanent transects established to determine the status and trends in white pine blister rust and tree mortality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). This is significant in that after the 2011 season we will have a complete resample of all 176 transects and can calculate that rate of which infection is changing over time. We will also complete survey of approximately another 44 transects in Panel 2 to help measure mortality during the mountain pine beetle epidemic.  In addition, we will be able to update our estimates of tree survival explicitly taking into account the effect of the presence of white pine blister rust infection and infestation by mountain pine beetle.

Our specific monitoring objectives are:

1)     To estimate the proportion of whitebark pine trees (>1.4 m high) within the GYE infected with white pine blister rust and to estimate the rate at which infection of trees is changing over time.

2)     To estimate survival of individual whitebark pine trees > 1.4 m high, explicitly taking into account the effect of the presence and severity of white pine blister rust infection and infestation by mountain pine beetle.

3)     Record Whitebark pine stand, transect and tree characteristics to describe patterns of natural regeneration and cone production.

4)     Utilize monitoring results to better inform land managers of need and opportunities for restoration activities across the GYE

Acres/ha treated: GYE, this is an ecosystem wide project


The basic approach is a 2-stage cluster design with stands (polygons) of WBP being the primary units and 10 x 50 m transects being the secondary units, within 2 strata (inside and outside the grizzly bear Recovery Zone (RZ). Our field methods closely follow that of the Whitebark Pine Foundation. Monitoring between 2004 and 2007 established 176 permanent transects in 150 WBP stands and 4,774 individual trees >1.4 m tall were permanently marked to estimate changes in WPBR infection and survival rates over an extended period. Monitoring since 2008 has focused on resurvey of trees in permanent transects to determine changes in white pine blister infection, infestation of mountain pine beetle and individual tree survival and mortality. Monitoring in 2012 will begin the resurvey of all trees for a second trend analysis to be completed in 2015.

Planting? If so, source of seedlings? Resistance?   N/A


Results below are presented in our 2011 annual report posted on this website http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/gryn/monitor/whitebark_pine.cfm.

Status of white pine blister rust

The 2007 baseline estimate of the proportion of live whitebark pine trees infected with white pine blister rust in the GYE is 0.20 (±0.037 se) (GYWPMWG 2008). This estimate is based on data from 4,774 individual live trees in 176 transects collected over a four-year period between 2004 and 2007 after all transects and tree records were established. In Table 1, we report the estimates of the proportion of whitebark pine trees infected with white pine blister rust based on the resurveys of panels 1, 2, 3, and 4 conducted in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively.  The estimates for proportion of live trees infected only infer to each panel for the year they are resurveyed. It should be recognized that these estimates do not denote a cumulative proportion of live trees infected from 2008 to 2011.

Upon completion of the 2011 field season, all panels were resurveyed once for white pine blister rust infection.  From these combined data between 2004-2007 and 2008-2011, we will present a step-trend analysis on white pine blister rust change, severity of infection, and survival of whitebark pine in the GYE. This analysis effort is underway and anticipated to be complete in 2014.

White pine blister rust infection remains widespread throughout the ecosystem. Decreases in white pine blister rust infection observed on some transects are most likely an artifact of increased mortality on the transect due to mountain pine beetle infestation or wildfire. Increases in white pine blister rust infection are explained by the actual increase in observable infection on trees within a transect.

Status of tree survival

To determine whitebark pine mortality, we resurvey all transects to reassess the status of permanently tagged trees >1.4 m tall. We subtract the total number of resurveyed dead tagged trees from the total number of live tagged trees recorded during initial establishment period from 2004 to 2007. By the end of 2011, we observed a total of 977 dead tagged whitebark pine trees within the boundaries of the permanent monitoring transects; this equates to a loss of approximately 20% of the original live tagged tree sample. While transects are experiencing varying degrees of mortality, they are also experiencing varying degrees of recruitment. Once a whitebark pine tree within the transect boundary reaches a height greater than 1.4 m tall, it is permanently tagged and included in the live tree sample. As of 2011, 3,767 (79%) of the originally marked trees remained alive, 30 trees were not relocated (1%), and an additional 301 new trees were added.

Presence of mountain pine beetle

High elevation forests across the GYE are experiencing elevated mortality as a result of the current mountain pine beetle epidemic. Mountain pine beetle exhibit a propensity for attacking whitebark pine trees that are 10 cm DBH and greater. Trees that are equal to or less than 10 cm DBH are not large enough to successfully support mountain pine beetle brood (Amman et al. 1977);  consistent with this observation, tree mortality observed in transects was much greater in trees >10 cm DBH. By the end of 2011, we found that 33% (n=775) of the trees >10 cm DBH had died, whereas only 8% (n=202) of the trees ≤10 cm had died.

Of the resurveyed trees that were recorded as dead since initial transect establishment, approximately 71% had J-shaped galleries present underneath the bark. Similar to white pine blister rust infection, mountain pine beetle infestation is widespread and varies in severity throughout the GYE. Of the 176 established transects, 111 have recorded evidence of mountain pine beetle infestation while 65 have no observed evidence of mountain pine beetle infestation.

Monitoring since completion of the project

            Dates ongoing

            Plans for future monitoring?

This is a long-term monitoring program with annual seasonal monitoring of all 176 transects on a rotating panel schedule. Please see monitoring protocol or reports for schedule.

Will outcome meet goals? yes

Future actions/follow up?

Data summary reports are produced annually with trend analysis reports produce after every 4 years of monitoring (all panels visited).  Monitoring is continuing into the future.

Miscellaneous comments

All of our annual reports are available to the public at  (http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/gryn/monitor/whitebark_pine.cfm).