2011 Demographics of WBP Recruitment Populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Project: Demographics of whitebark pine recruitment populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Agency/Forest or Park/District: Gallatin Range, Montana (GYE)

Project coordinator:  Erin Shanahan

Contact:  Erin Shanahan, GRYN, 2327 University Way, Suite 2, Bozeman, MT 59715, 406-581-0398, erin_shanahan@nps.gov


USGS; Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team; USFS- Bridger Teton, Gallatin,

Custer, Targhee, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Shoshone; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks; Montana State University.

Source of funding /amount

FHP: $14,200

Supplemental funding: $42,690 from GRYN, IGBST, USGS, YNP and MSU, $4,959 from CESU grant.

Dates of restoration efforts

Summer 2011


The objective of this project is to determine the age structure and recruitment potential of seedling and sapling whitebark pine in the understory of mature pure and mixed whitebark pine stands.

Acres/ha treated  N/A


This project will be directly associated with the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program for whitebark pine by collecting data from existing longterm monitoring plots located throughout the GYE. Plots are randomly distributed across the ecosystem, located in pure and mixed whitebark pine, on a variety of geologic substrates, and at varying elevations and aspects. Initially, we will visit 45 stands in conjunction with panels 2 and 4 of the monitoring program. At each stand a minimum of 5 meters off plot, we will collect cross sections and core samples from understory and overstory whitebark pine trees. We will sample 20 cross sections from understory whitebark pine <1.4 meters in height and 5 to 10 cores from overstory trees (sample size at each plot may vary depending on the number of understory and overstory trees available). We will also collect information on site characteristics including aspect, slope, % ground cover, % canopy cover, and a succinct description of the collected or cored individual’s growth form (i.e. straight bole, branching or divided bole). We will partner with the USGS and process all cross section and core samples in the lab using specialized equipment.

Planting? If so, source of seedlings? Resistance?  No


This project is still ongoing.  Currently, we are processing samples (to be completed by 12/2012).  This winter, 2013, we will complete ring counts and begin to analyze results.  This project will also be presented as part of a master’ thesis to be completed by fall of 2014.

Accomplished:  We worked closely with the Gallatin National Forest district office to identify areas that were documented to have disturbance in the late 1970s, early 1980s. We have successfully collected over 450 cores from 5 stands in the Gallatin Crest area.  At each stand, we collected from a control and treatment area.  Within each of these areas, we collected basal area factor, seedling density, and canopy cover.  In addition, we collected over 200 cross section samples of understory whitebark pine throughout the GYE to assess understory demographics.  Approximately ¾ of the samples have been prepared for final sanding.

Monitoring since completion of the project

            Dates  N/A

            Plans for future monitoring? We do not plan to monitor any collection sites in the future.

Will outcome meet goals?

A summary report of 2012 findings will be completed by fall of 2014.

Future actions/follow up?

Core samples have been dated and are currently being measured for ring width growth.  After completion of all laboratory processing, analysis and write up, this work will be included as part of a Master’s Thesis to be defended no later than December of 2014.  I did present some of our initial methods and findings at a poster session for the Yellowstone Biennial Scientific Conference in Mammoth, Wyoming in the fall of 2012 and have applied to present a poster at the IUFRO conference in Ft. Collins in June 2014.

Miscellaneous comments

Learned: More anecdotally, we have discovered that regeneration density is highly variable and seems to be positively influenced by overstory canopy cover type and canopy change.  In areas where there has been recent mortality to overstory trees from mountain pine beetle (2000 to 2012), whitebark pine regeneration is fairly dense.  This observation does lend support to our hypothesis that when openings in the canopy are created due to disturbances such as mountain pine beetle infestation, there is potential for a growth release in whitebark pine understory constituents.   We also learned a lot about logistics and time commitments for sampling target stands.

Due to a multiple acre wildland fire that occurred in our main study area on the Gallatin NF, we had to select alternative sites for sampling fairly late in the season.  Samples were successfully collected at all but one of these alternative sites.