Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Whitebark Pine Restoration

Project Reference Number: 2017-07

Project Status: Active

Led by: Sybille Haeussler, PhD, UNBC, Smithers

Funder: Habitat Conservation Trust, TD-Friends of the Environment Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society

We are beginning the first year of a five-year cycle of a multipartner project to restore endangered whitebark pine ecosystems with high habitat value for bears in the southern Skeena Region. Whitebark pine (Pinusalbicaulis) is a wildlife tree whose large oil- and protein-rich seeds (pine nuts) are an important source of nutrition for many wildlife species, including black and grizzly bears, birds, and small mammals in the subalpine forests of western Canada. The species was listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2012, and ecosystems containing whitebark pine are blue-listed in British Columbia. Whitebark pine is endangered by cumulative effects of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonusponderosae) that has killed up to 85% of large, seed-bearing trees in the Skeena Region, the introduced white pine blister rust (Cronartiumribicola) that infects 75% of surviving trees, and changing climate and fire regimes.

In 2010, the Bulkley Valley Research Centre began restoring disturbed whitebark pine ecosystems at their northwest limit in the southern Skeena Region. Recent wildfires in the region (Nanika Falls, Atna, Gosnell) destroyed mature whitebark pine trees within high value bear habitat, but created ideal sites for replanting. From 2011-2016, we collected seeds from rust-free trees and began rust-resistance testing. The second cohort is ready to plant in 2017. Our objective is to successfully restore at least 300 hectares of disturbed whitebark ecosystems in areas of high value bear habitat in the Skeena Region over 5 years.