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Fitzroya cupressoides

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES CUPRESSACEAE

Scientific Name: Fitzroya cupressoides
Species Authority: (Molina) I.M.Johnst.
Common Name(s):
English Patagonian Cypress
Spanish Alerce
Synonym(s):
Pinus cupressoides Molina

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2acd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-10-17
Assessor(s): Premoli, A., Quiroga, P., Souto, C. & Gardner, M.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Lara Aguilar, A.
Justification:
Although the estimated 42% past reduction in its area of occupancy does not meet the 50% threshold for A2 under Endangered, there has been an estimated reduction in the quality of habitat across its total range of more than 50% during the last three generations, which is suspected to equate to a population reduction of 50% over that time period. In Chile, where most of the population occurs, this is very evident in the Coastal Cordillera where most of the Alerce forests comprise secondary forest that is the result of fire, logging and damage to trees from bark stripping for caulking purposes. The majority of the Andean forests been impacted in similar ways. The decline in habitat quality is ongoing as illegal logging continues and deliberately set fires re-occur.
History:
2000 Endangered
1998 Endangered (Oldfield et al. 1998)
1998 Endangered
1997 Endangered (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to southern Chile and Argentina where it has a discontinuous distribution from 39°50’- 43°30’ S. In Chile it occurs in Region X from Province Valdivia (39°50’ S) to Province Palena (43°30’ S). It is found in the Coastal Cordillera from 39°50’ S to 42°35’ S; the Central Valley from 41°30’ to 41°50’ S and in the Andes from 40°50’ to 43° 30’ S. In Argentina it occurs in the Provinces of Chubut, Neuquén and Río Negro from 40°57' to 42°45
Countries:
Native:
Argentina (Chubut, Neuquén, Rio Negro); Chile (Los Lagos)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In both Chile and Argentina it has a discontinuous distribution in the Coastal Cordillera (Chile), the Central Valley (Chile) and the Andes (Chile and Argentina) with an altitudinal range of 1-1500 m. Patterns of intraspecific variation in Fitzroya have been studied with different molecular markers (isozymes and RAPDs) along the range of the species in Chile and Argentina. Populations located on eastern and western slopes of the Andes are genetically distinct with eastern populations carrying higher levels of genetic variation than western ones (Allnutt et al. 1999, Premoli et al. 2000). 
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Fitzroya usually grows on poorly drained young soils (Veblen et al. 1995) derived from volcanic ash (Peralta et al. 1979, Conaf 1985, Kühne 1985). At low and middle elevations, it occurs on poorly drained sandy soils, rich in organic matter, low pH and high C/N rate (Peralta et al. 1979). At higher altitude (800- 1200 m.) it grows on insipid soils, also derived from volcanic ash, but sandy well drained and infertile (Peralta et al. 1979). These areas receive between 2,000 to 4,000 mm precipitation per annum (Donoso 1981, Villalba 1990, Lara 1991). Throughout its range Fitzroya grows in a range of forest types. For instance in Chile, at elevations greater than 800 m it is often associated with Nothofagus betuloides, while at mid-elevations of from 500-800 m it grows with Nothofagus nitidaPilgerodendron uviferum, Podocarpus nubigenus and Tepualia stipularis. At low elevations of between 40 and 500 m Fitzroya is uncommon and typically it grows as a large tree in the Valdivian rainforest with Amomyrtus luma, Drimys winteri, Laureliopsis philippiana, Saxegothaea conspicua and Weinmannia trichosperma (Hechenleitner et al. 2006).

This is a very long-lived, slow growing tree with records of it living to more than 3,600 years old (Lara and Villalba 1993). It is dioecious species or ocasionally monoecius (Rodríguez et al. 1983). Inter-annual seed production is highly variable, with 5-7 years periods of low to no production and viability is also usually low (Donoso 1995). In the Chilean Andes most Fitzroya-dominated forests have originated following large-scale disturbance such as volcanic ash depositions, lava flows and landlslides. It can resprout from roots or low branches (Veblen and Ashton 1982).

Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Despite national and international legal protection, particularly in Chile its timber has continued to be exploited and this is reflected in the fact that during 1977-1996 the exports of Alerce timber reached an average of US $865,000 (Díaz et al. 1997). Logging permits are issued for timber declared to originate from trees that died prior to 1976 when Alerce was declared a National Monument and the cutting of live trees prohibited. Determining the date of death can be problematic and there have been many instances of fires being deliberately set in forests in the Chilean Andes and Coastal ranges  in order to produce more dead timber for harvesting (Lara et al. 2003, Wolodarsky and Lara 2005).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

For more than three centuries Alerce has suffered from over-exploitation due to its highly prized wood; human-set fires and conversion of forest to pasture land has significantly reduced its range and left extensive deforested or degraded areas (Veblen et al. 1976, 1982).  In Argentina 60% of the subpopulations shows signs of anthropogenic disturbances linked with cattle ranching and browsing, however, the present-day situation is that the remaining forest are in a relatively good conservation state (Kitzberger et al. 2000). In Argentina, since the 1980s, there has been little illegal exploitation of Fitzroya. Destruction in Chile's Central Depression has been extensive and until 1987, the tree was believed to have been completely eliminated from this area (Lara et al. 2003). During the summer of 1997-1998, human-set fires destroyed 9,777 ha in Chile's Coastal Cordillera. Fires in Alerce forests represented 34% of all forest fires in the provinces of Valdivia and Llanquihue in the 1997-98 summer (CONAF 1998). Throughout its range there has been a 42% loss of the original cover from 617,000 ha to 265,000 ha (Lara 2008), but the decline in habitat quality is far greater (exceeding 50%): evidence for this can be found in the large areas of existing forest with a high percentage of  burnt trees in the Coastal Cordillera and the many Andean sites which show poor regeneration and growth and also have a history of selective logging and fire.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In 1973 Fitzroya was included under Appendix I of CITES. In 1976, it was declared a National Monument and the exploitation of live trees was prohibited. In 1979 it was included as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in the United States, forbidding its import to that country. 

In Chile, 47,400 ha (17%) out of a total of 264,993 ha of Fitzroya forests are protected within National Parks and National Reserves. The remaining 83% of Fitzroya forests is mainly within private properties (Lara 2008).  The largest is Pumalín Park, which in its 250,000 ha contains significant Alerce forests. In Argentina over 80% of Fitzroya forests occur in protected systems (Premoli 2000). 

Researchers from Universidad Austral de Chile are carrying out ecological restoration of Alerce in the Central Depression using nursery-grown seedlings of local provenances in association with a small land owner and the regional office forest service. Population genetic research has shown that two southern Argentinean populations (Río Tigre and Lago Esperanza) hold genetic "hot spots" for the species (Premoli et al2000) and the loss of these subpopulations could result in the loss of significant genetic diversity. The remoteness and relatively small size of these subpopulations has meant that they are relatively untouched and are representative of Fitzroya forests prior to European colonisation and subsequent exploitation. However, these subpopualtions are outside of any protected area. The creation of new protected areas, to preserve the populations of Río Tigre and Lago Esperanza in Argentina is an urgent task (Donoso et al. 2006). The long term conservation of Fitzroya forests is a great challenge that requires the agreement of numerous social actors and the active participation of individuals, indigenous communities, companies, and the national states from Chile and Argentina.

Citation: Premoli, A., Quiroga, P., Souto, C. & Gardner, M. 2013. Fitzroya cupressoides. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 October 2014.
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