An assessment of Pinus contorta seed production in British Columbia: Geographic variation and dynamically-downscaled climate correlates from the Canadian Regional Climate Model




Lew, Alicia

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Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas ex Louden) is the most widespread pine in North America and the single most abundant tree species in British Columbia (BC). Its vast distribution, diversity and economic value make it an important species for timber harvest and subsequent reforestation. Climate change raises serious concerns over the adaptability and effective management of BC’s future forests. The majority of lodgepole pine seedlings requested for replanting are produced from seed obtained from wild stands, but the relationship between climate variation and the seed production of natural populations has yet to be assessed. The purpose of this study is to determine if variation in P. contorta seed yield is related to the climate of BC. Historical cone collection data were obtained from archived records of 1948 seedlots in 22 different natural stand seed planning zones (SPZs) of BC. Collections were made between 1963 and 2013 and seed yield (kg fresh seed/hL cone) was determined for each seedlot. First, natural variation in seed production of lodgepole pine was examined in 18 different SPZs. The Nass Skeena Transition (NST) represents a unique intersection between continental and maritime ecosystems and was found to have a significantly higher mean seed yield compared to all other zones, with the exception of Hudson Hope (HH). However, variance in seed yield for NST was found to be an order of magnitude higher than that of other SPZs, indicating that seed production in this region is exceptionally variable. These findings provide a valuable geographic baseline for the reproductive fitness of lodgepole pine, suggesting that climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for some areas of the province may need to be region-specific. In addition, the relationship between climate variation and the seed production of P. contorta in BC was evaluated. The climate of each region was described using dynamically-downscaled Global Circulation Model (GCM) and reanalysis climate output from the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM). Annual, winter, and summer means were explored for each of the climate variables of interest: total precipitation (mm) and surface air temperature (°C). Temporal correlations between the mean annual seed yield anomaly and the anomaly of both climate variables were significant under a variety of climate schemes in a number of SPZs. Significant overall trends in climate variables were also captured using GCM-driven CRCM output. While these two analyses independently highlighted significant relationships between seed yield and climate, their joint implications were unclear. Shifts in the CRCM boundary conditions revealed that the results lacked robustness during the historical period, inhibiting the investigation of future projections. Ambiguous age ranges for each cone collection and temporal restrictions of the seed collection data may be partially responsible for these inconclusive results. Results from the first half of this thesis suggest that, with few exceptions, seed production is relatively stable across SPZs spanning a wide range of climate regimes. Thus, the investigation of the relationship between reproductive fitness and climate may be complicated by the extraordinary adaptability of lodgepole pine and the high genetic variation in natural populations.



Lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta, Seed production, Seed yield, Climate change impacts, Forest biology, British Columbia, Canadian Regional Climate Model