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The Effects of Climate on Singleleaf Pinyon Pine Cone Production across an Elevational Gradient
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
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Climate change affects forest structure and composition through increasing temperatures and altered precipitation regimes. Arid and semi-arid ecosystems have shown signs of susceptibility towards regional warming. Climate warming may negatively affect tree reproduction, which is an important factor in tree population dynamics. The relationship between climate change and tree reproduction is not fully understood, particularly in mast seeding tree species. This project aims to determine how climate affects seed production across an elevational gradient in singleleaf pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla), a dominant, widespread mast seeding conifer of the Great Basin. Historical cone production data were collected and reconstructed for the past 15 years at three sites that span an elevational gradient on Rawe Peak near Dayton, Nevada. The low elevation site had only one year of high seed cone production; therefore, seed production data were not sufficient enough to test any relationships between cone production and climate. Cone production in low, mid, and high elevation sites differed significantly with more cones at the high elevation site. A significant positive relationship was found between cone production and summer precipitation (May to July) from three years prior to mature cone production (one year prior to seed cone initiation) at the high elevation site (p=0.0006; r^2=0.5841). The result suggests that Pinus monophylla stores resources prior to a mast seeding event and that precipitation can be a limiting factor on cone production. With predicted decreases in precipitation due to climate change, cone production may be significantly affected in Pinus monophylla and other mast seeding tree species. Further research with larger sample sizes, more study sites, and a longer time period of investigation is needed to better understand the relationship between cone ii production and climate change, particularly for tree species with long intervals between masting events. Research on this topic is important because change