Landscape pattern and blister rust infection in whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) at alpine treeline, Northern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A.
Franklin, Lauren Nicole
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Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is a foundation and keystone species at alpine treelines of the northern Rocky Mountains and is threatened by the fungus white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola). This disease affects all five-needled white pines, but has caused particularly widespread mortality in whitebark pine. Objectives of this research were: 1) to characterize the landscape structure of the treeline study sites at Divide Mountain in Glacier National Park and at Wyoming Creek in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana using landscape metrics and fieldwork; 2) to determine the frequency of blister rust infection of whitebark pine trees and determine if landscape pattern is correlated with higher infection rates; and 3) to characterize the climate at alpine treeline. I used both field surveys and subsequent statistical analysis to meet these objectives. Field data collection included detailed surveys of blister rust infection of treeline whitebark pine and characterization of landscape cover type in a combined total of 60 quadrats, positioned at the study sites using a random sampling scheme stratified by aspect. Landscape analysis of metrics such as patch area, proximity and contagion were generated in FRAGSTATS software and ArcGIS. Spearmanâ s rank correlation analysis found significant correlations between tree island patch size, patch perimeter, and percent of landscape and blister rust infection intensity at both study sites. These findings support previous research involving the relationship between patch area and blister rust infection rates and contribute to the field of landscape ecology by understanding what other landscape metrics are significant in invasive disease infection patterns.
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