Using Genetic Field Trials to Guide Management and Restoration of a Tree Species Under Threat by a Non-Native Pathogen and Climate Change

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Kristen M. Waring, Richard A. Sniezko, Nicholas Wilhelmi, Gregory J. Reynolds, Jeremy S. Johnson

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Maintaining healthy forests is a complex challenge, and climate change and invasive species are implicated in decreasing forest resilience. Southwestern white pine (SWWP; Pinus strobiformis), native to the southwestern US and Mexico, is vulnerable to climate change and a non-native tree disease, white pine blister rust (WPBR). Conditions are increasingly warmer and drier as precipitation patterns shift, and WPBR is spreading across the US range of SWWP. Proactive management and restoration require seed sources with durable genetic disease resistance and adaptative traits needed to survive the warmer, drier conditions predicted in the future. Seedlings from a range-wide SWWP seed collection were used to test for WPBR resistance at Dorena Genetic Resource Center in Oregon. Both major gene resistance and quantitative resistance are documented in SWWP, as well as an estimate of resistance levels and frequency throughout the range of the species. Seed from parent trees identified as resistant can be collected and used for restoration or genetic conservation. We established two genetic common garden field trials in the Southwest to validate seedling screening results and monitor durability and stability of resistance as well as assess adaptive traits. This information is critical to identify seed sources for future planting. This interdisciplinary, collaborative project includes international, academic, federal, and tribal partners. Challenges include funding ongoing activities (testing, outplanting and monitoring previous plantings), increasingly variable and unpredictably dry planting conditions, and mortality events in the original parent trees. We will present details of the project, early results, and applications for management and restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program