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Bristlecone Pine Distribution Mapping and Ecology

A 2000+ year-old bristlecone pine in the White Pine Range of eastern Nevada.
Photo by David Burchfield

Species Description

Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) forests (Figure 1) are found throughout the Great Basin region, extending from the White Mountains in eastern California to the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in Utah. While bristlecone pine has persisted in the Great Basin region for millennia, these forests are at risk of reduced distribution and impaired ecological sustainability. Major threats include white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fisch), mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins), altered wildland fire patterns, reduced seed dispersal, and climate change (Beasley and Klemmedson 1980, Lanner 1988, Schoettle 2004).

Bristlecone Pine Distribution Web Map
Photo by David Burchfield

Comprehensive Distribution Map

The objectives of our research are to assemble a comprehensive inventory of Great Basin bristlecone pine stands wherever they occur, and to assess both biotic and abiotic drivers of variability in stand composition and structure across the geographic and elevational range (Figure 2). We are currently developing spatially-explicit climate change models by comparing current distribution (realized niche) to climate-based potential distributions (fundamental niches) for contemporary and future climate scenarios. Finally, we are working in collaboration with Craig Coleman and the Plant Genetics group here at BYU to compare genetic variability between different populations.

Spatial Bibliography

There is substantial information published on bristlecone pine, however, the geographic location where that data was collected is often difficult to determine, typically referenced in the methods section of each paper. In 2015, we created a spatial bibliography for bristlecone pine that can be used by managers and scientists to identify locations where data has been collected and to provide access to those papers from journal articles, government reports, and other sources of information on bristlecone pine ecology and management. This bibliography will be maintained and updated to ensure a comprehensive and current database is provided. If you are aware of articles or references that are missing from this database, please send that reference information to

Click on the map to the left to visit the interactive map showing the distribution of published studies throughout the states of Utah and Nevada. Searches can be performed by author or title.