Picea omorika 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Pinaceae

Scientific Name: Picea omorika (Pančić) Purk.
Common Name(s):
English Serbian Spruce
Pinus omorika Pančić
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: A very distinctive species, with very slender form. Since it is sympatric with Picea abies, which may also have a very slender form, these two species have been confused in the past due to the use of the same vernacular name - omorika. According to Novac (1927), the word ‘Omorika’ is common in Bosnian and Serbian folklore where it symbolize slenderness. According to other authors, the word “omora” symbolize gloomy and dark environmental conditions, and thus, trees found in such conditions are called “omorika”.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(i,ii,v)+2ab(i,ii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-09-21
Assessor(s): Aleksić, J.M., Ballian, D., Isajev, D., Mataruga, M., Christian, T. & Gardner, M.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P., Bogunić, F. & Allen, D.J.

Global and European regional assessment: Endangered (EN)

EU28 regional assessment: Not Applicable (NA)

This species is restricted to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated to be 4,076 km2 and the area of occupancy (AOO) less than 200 km2Picea omorika is restricted to fewer than ten locations, one representing the main part of the species natural range with less than 30 fragmented populations of various size, and a small number of disjunct locations. The natural range of this species is in contraction since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, as expected for a cold-adapted species. Recent fieldwork indicates that there is a continuing (albeit slow) decline in the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, quality of habitat and number of mature individuals in some locations. This is primarily due to poor regeneration, inability to compete with associated tree species and climate changes. Aleksić and Geburek (2014) studied ten populations mainly from Serbia and found (i) an increase of genetic distinctiveness of populations over time, (ii) decreasing pollen flow over generations, and (iii) almost complete lack of seed flow, and thus, the species is considered to have severely fragmented distribution with poor connectivity of populations. Picea omorika is assessed as Endangered (EN B1ab(i,ii,v)+2ab(i,ii,v)).

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is restricted to Serbia, and to Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are four known locations: i) one representing the main part of the species natural range found within the Tara National Park (mountains Tara and Zvijezda, the latter encompassing areas Vidača and Veliki kraj) and adjacent southward areas in Serbia, and the almost adjacent westward and northward areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, between Višegrad and Srebrenica; ii) Viogor (Čajniče Municipality) in Bosnia and Herzegovina; iii) Radomišlje (Foča Municipality) in Bosnia and Herzegovina; iv) Ravnište-Kanjon Mileševke (Municipality of Prijepolje) in Serbia.

The extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated at 4,076 km2, and the area of occupancy (AOO) is unlikely to exceed 100-200 km2.
Countries occurrence:
Bosnia and Herzegovina; Serbia (Serbia)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:100-200Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4076
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:8-10Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):700
Upper elevation limit (metres):1500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Bosnia and Herzegovina

Confined to the eastern part of the country in Republika Srpska close to the Drina River. It occurs in three regions – Region Foča (Municipalities: Višegrad, Čajniče, Foča), Region Vlasenica (Srebrenica and Milići municipalities) and Region Sarajevo-Romanija (Rogatica Municipality). There are 14 confirmed sites within Republica Srpska. These are (names followed by km2/no. individuals): Višegrad Municipality: Veliki Stolac (0.3/3,000); Karaula Štula (0.01/100); Gostilja (0.258/1,000); Tovarnica (0.02/?). Čajniče Municipality: Viogor (0.1/150). Foča Municipality: Radomišlje (0.027/100). Srebrenica Municipality: Šarena Bukva (0.005/20); Strugovi (0.1/100). Milići Municipality: Crkvice-Tijesnido (0.014/100). Rogatica Municipality: Suvi Dol (0.1/2,000; Baba (0.03/1,000; Panjak (0.005/20); Novo Brdo (0.005/200).

These sites represent three distinct locations. The largest cluster of sites (c.12) is in an area c.40 x 20 km² between Višegrade and Srebrenica and is contiguous with the main location in Serbia. The second is about 25 km south at Viogor (Čajniče Municipality) while the third is another 60 km southwest at Radomišlje (Foča Municipality).


Confined to the western part of the country close to the River Drina canyon. It occurs at 17 sites of which 16 are in the Municipality of Bajina Bašta (Tara National Park and adjacent southward areas; Radović et al. 2005), and one disjunct site in Municipality of Prijepolje (Ravnište-Kanjon Mileševke), c.75 km southward from of the main area. Within the main area, species is found at three locations with one to several sites with populations of various sizes (Site name/no. of trees where available): location Mt Zvijezda with four sites, each found within a separate, steep ravine: Bilješke stene, Topli do 1, Topli do 2 and Topli do 3; location Vidača-Veliki kraj with two sites: Teferiđi and Petlova stena; location Mt Tara with 10 sites: Bilo (0.14/?), Ljuti breg (0.05/?), Crvene Stene (0.46/?), Studenac (0.005/419), Vranjak (0.04/?), Zmajevački potok (0.04/?), Crveni potok-Mitrovac (?/3), Točak (0.001/15), Trenica-Popovići (?/100) and Karaula Štula (on border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, described above). Single trees, representing either newly established individuals or remnants of former larger populations, are common within the main area. A single population is present at location Ravnište-Kanjon Mileševke.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Bosnia and Herzegovina
This species occurs on steep north to northwest facing limestone slopes (sometimes precipitous) which overlay igneous material. The altitudinal limits are from 800-1,450 m a.s.l. Depending on the altitude and slope, the associated tree species can include Abies alba, Picea abies, Pinus nigra, Fagus sylvatica, Populus tremula, Sorbus aucuparia, S. aria, Quercus spp and Ostrya carpinifolia. Sometimes it can occur as the dominant species within the forest, and at higher altitude on rocky outcrops it is co-dominant with Pinus nigra. On steep slopes at high altitudes it is co-dominant with Picea abies and Pinus nigra while on steep slopes at lower elevations it is co-dominant with Fagus sylvatica.

In Serbia, this species also occurs on steep north- to northwest facing slopes and very steep ravines in the Drina River canyon, at altitudes ranging from 800 to 1,500 m asl (Fukarek 1951, Aleksić 2008). The main associated species are Picea abies, Abies alba and Fagus sylvatica. It can also occur with Pinus nigra, P. sylvestris, Carpinus betulus and Acer platanoides. Sometimes it forms almost pure stands. Out of 17 sites, all but three are found on limestone. Two sites are found on serpentine (Zmajevački potok and Trenica-Popovići) and one on peatland (Crveni Potok-Mitrovac). At the former two sites, populations are viable, whilst at the latter site, only three individuals, with damaged crowns, are present. According to the fossil records (Gigov 1956), population Crveni Potok-Mitrovac at peatland was rather large at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. Therefore, the remnant individuals at this site demonstrate rather high adaptability of the species, which can persist in extremely unfavourable conditions over a long period of time (Aleksić 2008, Aleksić and Geburek 2014).

This species is a self-fertile but outcrossing species, which employs means other than early acting inbreeding depression to prevent the occurrence of selfed off-spring in mature seed (e.g. spatial separation of male and female strobili, protogyny and earlier maturation of female vs. male strobili; Kuittinen et al. 1991). Male cones mature in May. Female cones mature in September-October but mostly remain closed until the following May-June: they may persist for up to five years. Typically a good coning year is usually followed by a poor one. Post fire regeneration is usually very good although limited to steep slopes and cliffs. The climate is characterized by very high humidity, high precipitation regularly distributed over the year, high snow cover, and low winter temperatures.

Lockwood et al. (2013) found that Picea omorika originated in eastern Asia c.16 million years ago and that its closest relatives are Picea orientalis endemic to Caucasus and two Japanese endemics, Picea maximowiczii and Picea alcoquiana, while Sigurgeirsson and Szmidt (1993), Ran et al. (2006, 2015) and Bouillé et al. (2011) postulated North American origin of the species and found that its closest relatives are two North American species, Picea mariana and Picea rubens. A much younger age of Picea omorika, of c.2-3 million years, has also been hypothesized (Ran et al. 2015).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):50

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Historically the inaccessibility of many of the stands has limited its utilisation, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, seed collections are often made for commercial forestry. In Serbia, the trade of the Picea omorika reproductive material is forbidden, while seeds may be collected and used for scientific purposes only. Permission of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia is required for seed collections. Although the logging and usage of the timber for the production of wood products is nowadays forbidden, illegal logging was recorded in Serbia during the first half of the 20th century, and timber was used mainly for the production of barrels (Đorđević 1936).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Until the middle of the 19th century the natural range of P. omorika was more continuous and less disjunct than it is today. Its current fragmented distribution is mainly the result of anthropogenic factors such as general forest clearing and cutting, pastoralism and wildfires. Fire has perhaps been the biggest threat. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1950s, a large forested valley was devastated by fire which left three small fragments, each about 5 km apart. Local changes in landuse has prevented these fragments from expanding. More recently, during the 1992-1993 conflict, the forest at Strugovi was deliberately burnt leaving today less than 100 mature individuals alive. Generally speaking, regeneration is extremely limited except on the steepest rocky slopes and on cliffs where broadleaved trees are unable to compete effectively. During recent fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was noted that the isolated locality at Viogor in Čajniče Municipality had a poor quality of habitat where the old-growth trees were stressed with thin crowns.

Fire has also been highlighted as a major threat in Serbia. According to extensive and long-lasting survey, Čolić (1987) observed that many sites in Serbia have been affected by fire over the past 100 years or so, and that whole populations or population parts have been destroyed once or even several times. However, at most sites, populations have successfully been re-established after the fire. In dense populations (e.g. 1,200 individuals per ha such as in Studenac in Serbia), natural regeneration is poor because seedlings require light for their development. Thus, at such sites, openings created by fire or tree-fall gaps are quickly inhabited by individuals developing from seeds from neighbouring trees. At site Crveni potok-Mitrovac, with three remnant trees with damaged crowns, natural regeneration is not present because peatlands are extremely unfavourable habitats for the species (Aleksić 2008). During recent field work in Serbia, drying of individuals at several sites has been observed, and this may be due to the rapid climate warming.

One of the common pests of Picea omorika is Armillaria ostoyae (Romang.) which causes root rot and drying of the crown. In terms of the global climate warming, trees are under increased physiological stress and are more susceptible to this pest which may cause the rapid loss of individuals and of whole subpopulations in the near future (J. Aleksić pers. comm. 2017). Infected trees dry within a period of five to six years, and affected trees have been observed in both plantations (Ivetić and Aleksić 2016) and natural populations (e.g., Petlova stena, Studenac, etc.). The decline in the number of mature individuals may become even more pronounced due to the rapid climate change (Ballian 2006).

Picea omorika is a pioneer species which retreats to sites inaccessible to its competitors upon their arrival. It is a poor competitor, and natural regeneration may be facilitated by the occasional removal of mail competitors. Once established, it often becomes suppressed by Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies (Burschel 1965).

Although the logging and usage of the timber for the production of wood products is nowadays forbidden, illegal logging was recorded in Serbia during the first half of the 20th century, and timber was used mainly for the production of barrels (Đorđević 1936). but it is impacted by logging operations.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Picea omorika was legally protected in former Yugoslavia in 1964.

In Serbia, all sites are conserved in situ. The main objective of conservation is conservation with no active intervention, and thus, sites within Tara National Park (Gajić et al. 1994) are characterised by untouched forests left for the free development. Sites outside the Tara National Park are usually on private property, and although owners are not allowed to cut Picea omorika trees, it is unknown whether they follow this directive. There are several sites with planted trees of unknown origin on less than 20 ha which are managed by the Forestry Enterprise Srbijašume, and one generative seed orchard established in 1987 on 2.7 ha from 50 half-sib families.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina all stands are protected by national legislation.

Picea omorika is widely grown in gardens in northern Europe and worldwide but few of these collections are either comprehensive or well documented. A well-coordinated ex situ conservation programme could play a significant role in conserving the genetic diversity of this species and enabling its persistence especially in terms of global climate warming. Given the species highly fragmented distribution, high genetic differentiation of populations and their poor connectivity as well as rather high levels species of genetic diversity in all populations including the small ones (Aleksić and Geburek 2014, Aleksić et al. 2017), seed for ex situ conservation should be collected from all remnant populations. Recent collections by the International Conifer Conservation Programme in collaboration with Bosnia and Herzegovina aims to broaden the genetic base of the trees grown in the UK. An extensive programme of seed-banking would also be advantageous. A controversial approach, assisted translocation, may be employed as well (Ivetić and Aleksić 2016).

Citation: Aleksić, J.M., Ballian, D., Isajev, D., Mataruga, M., Christian, T. & Gardner, M. 2017. Picea omorika. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T30313A84039544. . Downloaded on 22 September 2017.
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