Bristlecone pine and limber pine trees in the Great Basin region are like two very gnarled, old men in a slow-motion race up the mountaintop, and climate change is the starting gun, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.
The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that the tree line has been steadily moving upslope over the past 50 years in the Great Basin. The region extends from California’s Sierra Nevada, across Nevada to Utah’s Uinta Mountains. Its north and south are framed by the Columbia and Colorado rivers’ watersheds.
The study also found that limber pine is successfully Great Basin map“leapfrogging” over bristlecone pine. They are growing in soils once almost completely dominated by bristlecone pine, and they are moving upslope at a faster rate than the bristlecone pine.
Photo: Bristlecone pine trees, which can live more than 5,000 years, stand where young limber pine grow around them. Limber pine is beginning to colonize areas of the Great Basin once dominated by bristlecones. (Brian Smithers/UC Davis)