Impacts of Climate Change on Pinyon Pine Cone Production
Forest and Rangeland Stewardship
University of Colorado
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
In this interrupted case study, students explore how changing climate may affect cone production in pinyon pine (Pinus edulis). Students begin by learning about mast seeding, a common reproductive strategy among many perennial plant species, and why mast seeding is often correlated with certain climatic variables. Students then work in small groups to develop hypotheses of how recent changes in climate may affect cone production and design an experiment to test their hypotheses. Students are then given data from a study that examines the effects of recent changes in climate on cone production, and they then work together in their small groups to interpret the data, understand the limitations of the study, and draw appropriate conclusions. This process teaches students about the scientific method, the complexity involved in interpreting data, and the potential mechanisms of how climate change may affect reproduction in pinyon pine. This case study is appropriate for a variety of undergraduate courses, including, plant ecology, population and community ecology, and general ecology.
- Explain what mast seeding is and the dominant hypotheses for why many perennial plants exhibit mast seeding.
- Assess how changes in climate may affect reproduction in mast seeding species and the associated mechanisms.
- Synthesize climate and cone production data to make predictions of how future climate may affect cone production.
- Gain experience in hypotheses formation, experimental design, data interpretation, literature searching, and scientific writing.
KeywordsMast seeding; masting; pinyon pine; Pinus edulis; plant reproduction; climate change; semi-arid ecosystem; drought; New Mexico
Topical AreasScientific method
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsAnalysis (Issues), Discussion, Interrupted, Journal Article
Subject HeadingsEcology | Environmental Science | Botany / Plant Science | Forestry | Natural Resource Management | Biology (General) |
Also included with this case study is an excel file that contains the data presented in Figure 2 (sheet titled: “Cone Late Summer Temperature”) and Figure 3 (sheet titled: “Cone Growing Season Temperature”) as well as important data notes (sheet titled: “Metadata”). This way, instructors have the option of having students graph and/or analyze the data.
Pinyon Pine Cone Case Study Data