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Threat to bristlecones

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Threat to bristlecones
September 27, 2010 05:35PM
Thriving in Harsh Settings, Old Trees May Soon Meet Their Match

Published: September 27, 2010

GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK, Nev. — For millenniums, the twisted, wind-scoured bristlecone pines that grow at the roof of western North America have survived everything nature could throw at them, from bitter cold to lightning to increased solar radiation.

Living in extreme conditions about two miles above sea level, they have become the oldest trees on the planet. The oldest living bristlecone, named Methuselah, has lived more than 4,800 years.

Now, however, scientists say these ancient trees may soon meet their match in the form of a one-two punch, from white pine blister rust, an Asian fungus that came to the United States from Asia, via Europe, a century ago, and the native pine bark beetle, which is in the midst of a virulent outbreak bolstered by warming in the high-elevation West.

Blister rust is a new challenge to the pines. It spread to Europe from Asia in the 19th century and then was shipped unknowingly to the East and West Coasts of North America around the turn of the last century on nursery trees. Only now is it reaching the high-elevation bristlecone. Anna Schoettle, a Forest Service ecologist in Fort Collins, Colo., said, “Neither the bristlecones nor their ancestors have been faced with a disease like this, and they have not evolved tolerances.”

“So really we’re in uncharted territory,” she said.

Re: Threat to bristlecones
September 28, 2010 12:33AM
This aging group of scientists may go the way of the bristlecones because there's so little money being spent in this area. There are hardly any good paying jobs in this area so few young scientists are studying this. When you have to study calculus, statistics, organic chem, biology, even computers and some physics, hey why would a young scientist with student loans in this economy want to risk poverty? Yup it may seem like some esoteric "tree hugger" science, but it's effect is felt by everyone. Another example where science is drowned out by stupidity and foolishness.
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