Status of Whitebark Pine in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 2000
Developing Rust-resistance Through Natural Selection
National Parks are uniquely managed to preserve natural conditions. If whitebark pine is to remain an important component of the Park, managers must decide how much loss is unacceptable. Based on these findings, since the 1930’s, about 26 percent of trees have succumbed to blister rust. A total loss of at least 46 percent is expected by the year 2050.
As a long-term strategy to abate future losses, it is suggested that seed orchards of rust-resistant trees be developed and provided to Clark’s nutcrackers for planting. Without going into detail, the basic strategy is to first collect seeds from trees determined to be disease-resistant which are then grown using nursery techniques until maturation. Wide scale human planting is not recommended because personal subjectivity would determine placement of trees rather than natural bird preferences. Therefore, we suggest that nursery trees be transported and temporarily placed as close to their original collection sites as possible for at least several good cone-crop years. This technique mimics natural selection but at a faster pace because it provides a much greater quantity of rust-resistant seeds for planting than would have been possible under natural conditions. It is a compromise between intense human intervention measures such as thinning competitors and establishing permanent plantings versus a noaction approach.