North Cascades Subalpine zone

Alpine and subalpine communities are emblematic of mountain parks of the Pacific Northwest and subject to emerging threats including global climate change, air borne contaminants and exotic pathogens.  The alpine and subalpine vegetation communities are believed to be the first zones that will show the early effects of global climate change.  These threats may cause changes in species composition and community structure (Epstein 2004) as well as forest line and tree island extent (Brink 1959, Rochefort 1996, Rochefort 1994, Woodward 1991 Millar 2004, Kimball 2000, Dullinger 2004).  Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is a keystone species of high-elevation ecosystems in western North America.  Today, the long-term survival of the species is uncertain due to the introduction of a Eurasian fungus (blister rust, Cronartium ribicola) to North America in 1910.  Changes in alpine and subalpine vegetation will have a direct effect on the animal species that inhabit the alpine and subalpine areas as well as the hydrology in mountainous zones.