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Can We Grow Now? Helping Bristlecone Pine Trees To Take Root and Grow

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire 2 - Vol. 13 No. 1.

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Bristlecone pines have an interesting relationship with fire. When a fire occurs, it may open a once-closed area to sunlight. When this happens, bristlecone pine seedlings get a chance to grow. These trees grow slowly, however, and can take between 50 and 100 years to mature. The scientists in this study wanted to know more about the best conditions for bristlecone pine tree seeds to take root and grow. If they better understood this, forest managers could do things to improve the conditions for seeds to take root and grow. 

Welcome to the Wildland Fire 2 edition

Note to Educators

Journal Lesson Plan 1

Journal Lesson Plan 2


Who or What Am I?

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Additional Resources for this Article:
Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
When scientists complete their research, they communicate their results to other scientists. One way they do this is by writing a scientific paper. Within a scientific paper, scientists almost always use many ways to communicate. These ways include words, photographs, maps, drawings, tables, charts, and graphs. As you read Natural Inquirer articles or other scientific material, look carefully at the many ways scientists communicate their findings. In this article, you will see photographs, charts, and maps that help you understand the research. In your own life, how do photographs, charts, and maps help you understand in a way that words do not? Have you recently looked at an hour-by-hour forecast of the temperature? How does that graph help you understand the coming weather in ways that words do not?
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Bristlecone pine trees are special. They are special because they can live for long periods of time, some up to 4,500 years. This makes them the oldest living species on Earth. In the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in California, the oldest of these trees is named Methuselah (mə-ˈthü-zə-lə). This tree was named for the oldest person named in the Bible. Methuselah is a Great Basin bristlecone pine. The scientists in this study examined Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine trees. Bristlecone pines can live in harsh environments, such as cold, windswept, rocky slopes (figure 1). They can also live in more favorable habitats, where they form closed-canopy forests (figure 2). Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine trees are found in Colorado. Bristlecone pine trees provide a lot of benefits to the areas in which they grow. They provide seeds for birds and other wildlife. They hold carbon in their wood, which helps to reduce climate change. They contribute to the water cycle by pulling in water through their roots and transpiring it through their needles. They provide a special benefit to people who visit the old trees, or maybe just look at photographs of them. Can you name this benefit? The benefits provided by nature are called ecosystem services.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Ecosystem Services
  • Habitat

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (C)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Reproduction and heredity (C)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Structure and function in living systems (C)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)