Black Spruce Fertility at the Arctic Treeline

Regions: Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: biology, forestry, arctic treeline, tree growth, black spruce

Principal Investigator: Greene, David F (5)
Licence Number: 14519
Organization: Concordia University
Licenced Year(s): 2009
Issued: May 08, 2009
Project Team: David Timerman (Honours student, Concordia University), Kristina Millett (Honours student, Concordia University)

Objective(s): The research objective is to show that the fertility of black spruce (Picea mariana) in the Arctic is limited by the amount of pollen in the surrounding air.

Project Description: The research objective is to show that the fertility of black spruce (Picea mariana) in the Arctic is limited by the amount of pollen in the surrounding air.

After snowmelt, the researchers will choose unburned black spruce “islands” at different distances from the perimeter of the 1999 Lynx Creek fire. Subsequently, as the developing black spruce pollen cones become easy to see, they will remove them from certain trees so that some of the smaller patches become more idealized squares of pollen production. When the male cones are mature and begin to shed pollen, they will place battery-powered rotorods both within and between patches. The adhesive-coated slides on the rotorods will be removed twice a day; pollen counts based on the slides will be made with a microscope at the Aurora Research Institute in Inuvik. One month later, the researchers will collect female cones from trees within the patches, examining the number of viable seeds per cone. The analysis afterward is straightforward: they will use a modeling program to estimate what the measurable factors of a pollen dispersal curve will be for these patches. Of course it is expected that the strength of a source patch will be directly related to its size, and that the cone's ability to receive pollen grains from the almost-infinite source beyond the fire perimeter will decline gently with distance. Finally, it is expected that the average number of viable seeds per female cone will be directly related to the amount of pollen measured in the air earlier in the summer.

The researchers intend to create and distribute posters to communicate the results of their study. They also would like to meet and present the project to interested members of the local community organizations.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from May 15 to August 15, 2009, within 1 Km of the Dempster Highway south of Inuvik (up to approximately 50 km south of the airport).