UC Davis plants 5,000 sugar pine seedlings at Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

UC Davis plants 5,000 sugar pine seedlings at Lake Tahoe

UC Davis forest ecologist Patricia Maloney plants a sugar pine seedling in Tahoe National Forest.
Provided / UC Davis

UC Davis ecologist Patricia Maloney and a team of researchers collected seeds from 100 sugar pine trees that survived the California drought and bark-beetle infestation that killed more 129 million other trees between 2012 and 2016.

The researchers spent two years cultivating 10,000 seedlings at the Forest Service’s Placerville Nursery. They were then moved to the UC Davis Tahoe City Field Station.

In early November, between 4,000 and 5,000 of the seedlings were planted around the North Shore with 1,500 of them to be used to study and identify important adaptive traits. The rest were given to private landowners. This is part of a restoration project that was funded by the Tahoe Fund and the California Tahoe Conservancy.

“These survivors matter,” said Maloney, a scientist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology and Tahoe Environmental Research Center in a press release. “Essentially, these are the offspring of drought survivors. This is hopefully the genetic stock of the future.”

The seedlings are hand watered in the nursery, so planting them this time of year, when it rains and snows, allows them to get the water they need outside of the nursery. Maloney and a group of volunteers planted the seedlings in micro-climates that were conducive to their growth and survival.

“This project not only fosters restorative growth in California’s forests, it also plants seeds of forestry awareness and experience in our Corps members that can lead them to careers in forest conservation,” said Bruce Saito, director of the California Conservation Corps.

Part of the goal of this project is to promote more genetic diversity within the trees, but a personal goal of Maloney’s is to track each mother tree to see how it survives.

“Forest tree species have a large capacity for gene flow; they can move long distances,” Maloney said. “Our native tree species have the potential to change.”

To read the study from Maloney’s lab on genetic diversity, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/partnerships/tahoescience/documents/p009_Maloney2011.pdf.

To find out more about UC Davis, visit http://www.ucdavis.edu.

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