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Pinus pseudostrobus assisted migration trial with rain exclusion: maintaining Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve forest cover in an environment affected by climate change


In the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in central-western Mexico, drought stress causes the decline of two of the most ecologically and economically important conifers: Abies religiosa and Pinus pseudostrobus. Since P. pseudostrobus is distributed immediately below the lower elevation limit of A. religiosa, it would be a logical choice of species to fill gaps that may be created by the decline of A. religiosa. We assessed the feasibility of upward assisted migration and explored the effect of rain reduction using four P. pseudostrobus provenances in a rain exclusion field test at the border of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) in Mexico. Our results show that, although populations were transferred between − 1.4 and − 3.3 °C mean annual temperature, and 30% of the precipitation (− 200 mm) was excluded, no statistically significant differences were found among treatments or populations for height increment (overall average 1.52 m) or survival (overall average 87%). These findings suggest that it is feasible to migrate P. pseudostrobus upward, towards the MBBR border, which also coincides with the sites where A. religiosa is in decline. This may present the additional benefit of discouraging change in land use from forestry to potato production by maintaining a healthy barrier of trees. If assisted migration is not included in management and reforestation programs, climate change could induce significant mortality in the present A. religiosa forest, facilitating expansion of the agricultural frontier toward the MBBR.

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We are grateful for the assistance provided by the Forest Technical Office of the Indigenous Community of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, Michoacán, México, for the collection of seeds, through Felipe Aguilar, Manuel Echevarría, Antonio Echevarría, Felipe López and Reyes Aguilar and others. Plant maintenance in the nursery was made possible by Dante Castellanos-Acuña, Verónica Osuna-Vallejo and Margarita Heredia-Hernández. Establishment, maintenance and evaluation of the field experiment was made possible thanks to the help of Francisco Ramírez-Cruz (deceased) and Doña Petra Cruz-Cruz, from Ejido la Mesa, Municipality of San José del Rincón, Estado de México, as well as Mariela Gómez from the Faculty of Biology of the UMSNH and the UMSNH students Aglaen L. Carbajal-Navarro, Jorge Herrera-Franco, Gerardo Guzmán-Aguilar, Cecilia Zamora-Sánchez, Esmeralda Navarro-Miranda, Ana Laura Cruzado-Vargas, Verónica Osuna-Vallejo, Miriam Linares-Rosas, Nancy Farías-Rivero, Nancy Izquierdo-Calderón. M. Isabel Ramírez (CIGA-UNAM Morelia) provided precipitation data. Keith MacMillan provided assistance with the English writing.


We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Monarch Butterfly Fund (Madison, Wisconsin, USA), the Consejo de la Investigación Científica of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (CIC, UMSNH) and the PAPIIT Program (IN202112) of the UNAM. EGP received a graduate studies fellowship (339216) from the Mexican Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT).

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CSR and RLC conceived the project. LLT provided the seedlings. EGP, CSR, ABG and RLC conducted the experiment. GON contributed to the discussion of the results and revised the English writing. All co-authors revised the manuscript. EGP and CSR led the writing.

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Correspondence to Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero.

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Gómez-Pineda, E., Blanco-García, A., Lindig-Cisneros, R. et al. Pinus pseudostrobus assisted migration trial with rain exclusion: maintaining Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve forest cover in an environment affected by climate change. New Forests 52, 995–1010 (2021).

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  • Climatic change
  • Forest decline
  • Drought stress
  • Assisted migration
  • Rain exclusion