Monterey Pine Genetic Conservation

Monterey pines at Año Nuevo, CA USA, 1978. Photo credit: Ken Eldridge, CSIRO, Forestry and Forest Products, Canberra, Australia

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is a tree species that only grows naturally in a restricted area on the central California coast and on two islands off the western coast of Baja California, México. It is ecologically and culturally significant to California and has enormous economic impact worldwide due to its amenability to domestication as a plantation tree species.

The genetic diversity of Monterey pine is today facing more threats than perhaps at any other time. Urban and recreational development has decreased the natural range of the species and the planted Monterey pines of unknown or nonlocal origin provide a threat of genetic contamination to natural populations in some places. Currently, pitch canker disease—caused by an introduced fungus—is contributing to the premature death of trees, thus endangering the few natural populations of trees. A Pitch Canker Task Force (a subcommittee of the California Forest Pest Council, an advisory body to the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) on pest protection matters) has been formed to work towards a statewide course of action for pitch canker issues.

Genetic diversity within the species can provide opportunities for adaptation to new environments, resistance to insects and disease (including pitch canker), or buffering capacity for changing climates. Genetic resources are thus important to the long-term health and viability of a species in its natural environment.

The Genetic Resources Program (GRCP) received financial support from CDF toward developing a genetic conservation plan for Monterey pine. As a first step toward a species-wide plan, genetic information was reviewed and interpreted within an ecosystem context, exploring the relationships between genetic diversity and structure and the resident ecology and disturbance regimes (e.g., fire, hydrology). This review took into account both the natural populations and the genetic resources held in offsite collections in California and in other countries. This work, published as a GRCP report after review from a variety of perspectives and expertise, is available as a baseline for future development of a genetic conservation plan.

The specific objectives of this report were:

  1. To provide an assessment of the genetic resources of Monterey pine, identify key genetic issues, and recommend actions related to genetic conservation.
  2. To identify specific genetic considerations and requirements for each Monterey pine population, allowing for precision in conservation planning.
  3. To provide critical input (specifically, science-based information towards genetic conservation) to discussions for overall conservation planning efforts for Monterey pine and to specific forest management activities.
  4. To identify research needs based on missing information on the genetic diversity, genetic structure, genecology, ecological interactions, and related natural processes of Monterey pine in its native habitat.
  5. To address both the immediate (e.g., genetic contamination, reduction in gene pool due to tree removal and disease) and long-term (e.g., genetic bottleneck, possible inbreeding effects such as lack of viability) genetic issues.
  6. To examine genetic relationships and formulate tentative functional relationships among the natural populations of Monterey pine and the offsite collections of seeds and trees in California and worldwide.

The report is now available. For further information contact Deborah L. Rogers.

This page last updated October 31, 2002. Copyright UC Regents. All rights reserved.