Five needle pine regeneration and health

Jodie Krakowski, Forest Stewardship and Trade Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Edmonton AB

Joyce Gould, Forest Stewardship and Trade Branch, Alberta Environment and Parks, Parks Division, Edmonton AB

Margriet Berkhout, Wildfire Management Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Rocky Mountain House AB

Pam Melnick, Forest Area Operations, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Rocky Mountain House AB

Robin Gutsell, Resource Stewardship Division, Alberta Environment and Parks, Edmonton AB

Ecosystem composition and dynamics in the USA reflect drier and warmer conditions than whitebark and limber pine habitats in Canada. Planned monitoring in 2019 throughout Canada’s Rocky Mountains enabled the additional streamlined collection of fire history and fuels data. In half the stands and most plots within stands, no obvious fire evidence was found. Regeneration density showed no significant trends with latitude or elevation, and weak trends with increasing tree density. There were no significant differences in regeneration numbers or health of whitebark or limber pine stands in burnt compared to unburnt stands when old (>20 years) and recent (≤20 years) burns were pooled. Recently burnt whitebark pine stands had slightly more regeneration and significantly more rust infection than unburnt stands or those with old burns. Recently burnt limber pine stands had the least regeneration. These stands generally had low fuel loads. Fuel connectivity varied horizontally but was high vertically because of branch retention. Provincial spatial datasets characterizing fuel types and fire history in these remote sites had very low accuracy against observations; layers could be improved by incorporating our data. Most stands were field classified as Canadian Forest Fire Behavior Prediction C-7 fuel type. Follow-up with more rigorous or dendrochronological stand assessments is recommended as fire history, especially older fires may have been underestimated using our methods. Based on these initial findings, to support recovery objectives for these endangered species, we recommend: 1) Protect high-value trees (disease-resistant mature trees) from fire; 2) avoid moderate or high intensity prescribed fire within whitebark or limber pine stands; 3) use prescribed fire or manage wildfire to create regeneration openings in dense stands, and as barriers to future wildfire spread near 5-needle pine stands; 4) consider light burning at sites planned for planting whitebark and limber pine to reduce competing vegetation.