Restoration Trials

A series of recent wildfires (2004 – 2012) near Morice Lake, southwest of Houston, BC have provided excellent opportunities to establish whitebark pine restoration trials in areas of high value grizzly and black bear habitat.  The 2004 Nanika wildfire and 2012 Atna Lake wildfires are not road accessible and are located within Provincial Parks, thus requiring locally collected seeds.  The  2010 Gosnell wildfire is road accessible and being located outside of a park provided us with a good test area for a preliminary trial using non-local seed sources.

 

image

Map of 3 recent wildfires and one older (1974) wildfire in whitebark pine habitat near Morice Lake, BC

Gosnell Wildfire

A 1300 ha wildfire burned in the Gosnell Creek watershed in August 2010. This valley has high value grizzly and black bear habitat due to abundant salmon, avalanche tracks, huckleberries, and ridgetop stands of whitebark pine. Drier sites within the burned area are suitable for whitebark pine restoration plantings.

View Google map of Gosnell site

We selected two contrasting sites in the Gosnell Valley for our first restoration trial in 2011:

  1. The Crystal Road site is a dry rocky ridge (ESSFmk/02a site type) that was severely burned by the wildfire.
  2. The Joshua Road site is a dry glaciofluvial outwash terrace (ESSFmk/02b site type) where the lodgepole pine overstory was killed by mountain pine beetle. The wildfire was spotty and of low severity at this site.
image

Gosnell wildfire Crystal Road Site 2nd growing season 2012

image

Joshua Road Site 2011

In June 2011 we planted 50 whitebark pine seedlings (mixed non-local seedlots grown at UNBC) and sowed seed caches (Mount Sidney Williams seedlot) at each site. We return to the site intermittently to measure the survival, growth and condition of the planted and seeded tree seedlings and to remove competing vegetation. We expect the seedlings on the severely burned Crystal Road site to grow faster due to full sunlight and nutrient release after the burn. One half of the planted seedlings received one cup of soil taken from beneath a mature whitebark pine tree growing nearby in order to inoculate the soil with appropriate mycorrhizal fungi. Laboratory research conducted by Hugues Massicotte and Linda Tackaberry at UNBC suggests that mycorrhizal inocula may improve the growth of young whitebark pine seedlings.

image

UNBC seedlings uninoculated

image

UNBC seedlings inoculated

image

Kerrith flagging natural whitebark regeneration Joshua site

At the Joshua Road site we found dozens of naturally regenerated whitebark pine growing beneath the dead lodgepole pine. These trees apparently grew from Clark’s Nutcracker seed caches. We have flagged these seedlings and are following their progress to determine whether they are able to release and grow to maturity following death of the overstory lodgepole pine.  Most of these naturally regenerated seedlings are infected with white pine blister rust..

Wetzin’Kwa / Hudson Bay Mountain

image

Wetzin'Kwa site overview

Since 2012 the Bulkley Valley Research Centre has been working with the Wetzkin’Kwa Community Forest Corporation to establish whitebark pine seedlings on the west side of Hudson Bay Mountain near Smithers. Our trial compares the growth of whitebark pine seedlings at 4 elevations in order to help understand how climate change may influence the future success of this tree in the Smithers area. Currently whitebark pine trees grow largest and produce the most cones at elevations around 1000 meter but these trees may be most vulnerable to stress under a warming climate.

  1. low elevation site – at the Duthie West trailhead (1000 m elevation)
  2. transitional site  ̶  on a rock outcrop near the lower end of the Piper Down mountain bike trail (1100 m elevation) just below Hudson Bay Mountain main ski lodge (1300 m elevation)
  3. mid-elevation site  ̶   near the near the Pay Dirt mountain bike trail just below Hudson Bay Mountain main ski lodge (1300 m elevation).
  4. high elevation site – at timberline on the Hudson Bay Mountain Prairie (1600 m elevation).
image

Wetzin'Kwa low elevation site Duthie West Fall 2012

image

Wetzin'Kwa mid elevation site Piper Down June 2012

image

Wetzin'Kwa high elevation site Hudson Bay Mountain Prarie Sept 2012

At the low, mid and high elevation sites, the Wetzin’Kwa planting crew helped us plant 90 four-year-old seedlings grown at UNBC. At the high elevation site, we also direct-seeded 31 caches with 5 seeds each. We will return once or twice per year to measure the survival, growth and performance of the planted trees and to remove competing vegetation.

The high elevation site has a climate station maintained by the BC Forest Service to study climate change and is located adjacent to an assisted migration seedling trial established in 2007 by Sierra Curtis-McClane, a graduate student in the Forest Conservation Genetics Laboratory at UBC. As the climate warms it will be informative to learn how well whitebark pine trees can grow in an alpine zone that was formerly too stressful for tree growth.

Survival of seedlings planted in 2012 has been excellent (~97%), but seedlings planted in 2014 at the transitional site suffered heavy mortality due to hot, dry weather.  To date it appears that seedlings planted at lower elevations grow most rapidly, but those planted just below timberline (1300 m) currently experience the least amount of climatic and biotic stress.

Read the full report from 2014 here.

Nanika Wildfire

In 2004, a wildfire burned on the shoreline of Kidprice Lake adjacent to the Nanika River falls within what is now Nenikëkh/Nanika-Kidprice Provincial Park, co-managed by BC Parks and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The wildfire killed many large whitebark pine trees. Although Clark’s Nutcrackers are commonly seen at Kidprice Lake, a regeneration survey found only a few, tiny whitebark pine seedlings growing in the burned area. Lodgepole pine and subalpine fir regenerated well after the fire and are growing much more rapidly.

image

Nanika Falls burn Kidprice Lake aerial view 2010

image

Nanika Falls wildfire view from falls area Sept 2010

The Bulkley Valley Research Centre is working with BC Parks and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en to restore whitebark pine stands within the Nanika Wildfire.  In 2014, 340 seedlings grown from seeds collected from a young stand on the shore of Kidprice Lake directly opposite the wildfire we planted on rocky outcrops at two locations within the wildfire. All of the parent trees from whom the seeds were collected were free of active white pine blister rust, and we are monitoring their offspring for evidence of blister rust resistance, both in the Nanika wildfire and in field and laboratory trials conducted in the US and in southern BC.  More seedlings will be planted in the fire in 2017.

A brochure describing the restoration project is available here.

Mount Davidson

New Gold is proposing to develop its Blackwater Gold mining project on Mount Davidson, located 100 km south of Vanderhoof, BC. An isolated stand of whitebark pine has been discovered within the proposed mine project area. The Bulkley Valley Research Centre has been working with the engineering firm AMEC and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation – Canada to help restore the whitebark pine ecosystem on Mount Davidson. Whitebark pine seedlings were salvaged in summer 2012 from within the mine footprint and were planted at a nearby restoration site. In 2013, seeds were collected from blister rust-free parent trees on Mount Davidson and seedlings grown from these parent trees will be outplanted at the restoration site in 2015.

Atna Wildfire

The 2012 Atna wildfire burned an extensive area of forest in Morice Lake Provincial Park including significant stands of whitebark pine.  The Bulkley Valley Research Centre worked with BC Parks and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, who co-manage the park, and the BC Wildfire Management Branch to identify suitable sites for restoration with apparently blister rust-resistant whitebark pine seedlings.  In June 2014, 340 seedlings grown from seeds collected at Kidprice Lake (see Nanika wildfire above) were planted on a remote rocky ridge above Atna Bay by BC Wildfire Management Branch personnel.  Several thousand more Kidprice Lake seedlings currently at Woodmere Nursery are schedulred for planting in the burn in 2017 and we hope to collect additional seeds from rust-free parent trees near Morice Lake to continue this restoration project.

McBride Peak

In July 2013, we assisted UNBC researchers Linda Tackaberry and Hugues Massicotte in establishing a whitebark pine assisted migration trial at two elevations (below timberline, above timberline) at McBride Peak in the McBride Community Forest in the Rocky Mountains of east central BC. This trial is a partner to the assisted migration plantings in the Wetzin'Kwa Community Forest and uses the same set of provenances from southern BC, Alberta and Washington, all grown at UNBC.

Thanks to treeplanter Darren Rockliffe who produced a video describing the planting project.

Other Activities

The BVRC whitebark pine project team regularly provides assistance and advice to organizations group with an interest in whitebark pine in northern BC.  In 2013 we partnered with BC Timber Sales to collect 7 kg of whitebark pine seeds from rust-free parent trees that will enable them to plant whitebark pine seedlings in recent cutblocks where whitebark pine trees were lost during logging. We supplied seeds to Huckleberry Mine for a mine reclamation trial, and have contributed seeds to rust-resistance screening and breeding trials conducted by the Province of BC and US Forest Service.

image

Atna wildfire Aug 2012 L Helkenberg Photo