Population Genetic Analysis of Clark’s Nutcracker

Research Project: 

RB00CNJ.19

Project Manager: 

Sara Oyler-McCance
A whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forest that is dying due to drought and bark-beetle. Connie Miller photo, U.S. Forest Service.
A whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forest that is dying due to drought and bark-beetle. Connie Miller photo, U.S. Forest Service.

Clark’s nutcrackers are foraging specialists, depending on conifer seeds from Whitebark and Limber pine, which have been affected by unprecedented outbreaks of mountain pine beetle, white pine blister rust, and fire-suppression. Nutcracker numbers and movements are sensitive to the loss of pine forests occurring throughout western North America. Information on nutcracker gene flow could provide a baseline for detecting future changes in nutcracker movements and distribution resulting from declines in Whitebark pine ecosystems. Our work shows that gene flow among populations throughout the range is high. Restoration projects to restore Whitebark pine communities in several regions are underway; these findings suggest that nutcrackers may repopulate these regions as forests mature. This research is in collaboration with the University of Colorado-Denver.