This week consisted of sampling my plots, as per usual. As I increase my sampling size, there are several realizations that I’ve come to have about the decline of Whitebark Pine. Whereas before I knew that they were being impacted by climate change, drought, mountain pine beetle, and blister rust, I stumbled upon another presumable factor that I noticed in the field. As global temperature increases, the areas where plants best grow and animals reside shift. As a result, Whitebark Pine trees, which grow in very high elevations and rocky soils that do not usually exhibit a lot of diversity, start to receive competition by other tree species moving to higher elevations– notably Mountain Hemlock.
Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) is tolerant of most forms of competition by other species. It grows in areas similar to that of Whitebark Pine, however, it grows in dense, tall stands that exceed the growth rates of Whitebark Pine. Subsequently, the Whitebark Pines are being pushed out or having trouble succeeding in areas where dense hemlock stands are present.
Noticing this reminded me that it’s always good to keep an open mind. When you become too focused on what you think the outcome should be, you ignore the truth.