Lodgepole Pine Seed Germination Following Tree Death from Mountain Pine Beetle Attack in Colorado, USA

Cones of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) are often serotinous, releasing their seeds from closed cones under heat from fire. Stand-replacing fires in predominantly serotinous stands can thus be expected to result in a strong regeneration response. After large-scale mortality caused by mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), however, the seeds in serotinous cones may remain on the dead trees for a number of years, impacting germination and viability. We tested seeds collected from living and beetle-killed serotinous stands to determine whether they remain viable after tree death, and whether germination rates were affected by cone age. There was no significant difference in percent germination from the living stand vs. the dead stand. While there was a significant relationship between cone age and percent germination, cones that were 21-25 y still had >30% germination. We conclude that post-beetle regeneration likely will not be limited by viable seed availability in stands with serotinous cone-bearing trees.

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