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Cathaya argyrophylla

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES PINACEAE

Scientific Name: Cathaya argyrophylla
Species Authority: Chun & Kuang
Taxonomic Notes: Cathaya argyrophylla is one of the prime examples of a relict conifer which had a very much wider distribution in the geologic past. In the Tertiary Cathaya occurred in Europe, Russia, and Canada, and the genus is rather common as a fossil in the Miocene lignite ('brown coal') deposits of Germany. Its taxonomic position has been the subject of some dispute in the past, but more recent phylogenetic studies in the Pinaceae have confirmed its status as a genus, probably related to Pseudotsuga in a 'pinoid' clade

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-12-14
Assessor(s): Yang, Y. & Liao, W.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Farjon, A.
Justification:
This species has a small global population, and the number of mature individuals is estimated to number not much more than 500 mature individuals; certainly less than 1,000 mature individuals. It is not clear if this species has been harvested much in the past, it appears to be a naturally scarce species. Much of the population is in protected areas and it enjoys the highest level of protection in China plus there is a general logging ban which has recently been imposed by the Chinese Government. Hence, although there is no evidence for any decline this species is listed as Vulnerable based simply on the small population size
History:
1997 Rare (Walter and Gillett 1998)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to China: Chongqing (Nanchuan Xian, Wulong Xian), NE Guangxi (Jingxiu Yaozu Zizhixian, Longsheng Gezu Zizhixian), Guizhou (Daozhen Xian, Jiangkou Xian, Tongzi), S Hunan (Chengdu, Guidong Xian, Luohandong, Xinning Xian, Zixing Shi). A monospecific genus occurring in a few disjunct localities in the eastern Dalou Mts. and in the Yuecheng range.
Countries:
Native:
China (Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Sichuan)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The total number of individual plants is estimated to be 4,484. The population age structure is a normal distribution. The population size is therefore about 500 mature individuals. Around 30 small to medium-sized stands occur in areas which are fairly inaccessible.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: On medium high mountains, at elevations between (900-)1,200 m and 1,900 m a.s.l. The soils are the widely distributed red and yellow earths of humid, warm temperate to subtropical China. Wang (1961) has mentioned C. argyrophylla as a rare conifer occurring in the evergreen sclerophyllous broad-leaved forest type. This forest type is dominated by numerous species of Fagaceae with mostly small, ovate lanceolate, coriaceous leaves. However, from the altitudinal range of the species it is likely that it occurs in an ecotonal type between the sclerophyllous and deciduous broad-leaved forest types. Other conifers with which it occurs are almost certainly Pinus fenzeliana (syn. P. kwangtungensis), and possibly also Tsuga chinensis and Nothotsuga longibracteata.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is in cultivation through several forestry institutes and botanic gardens in China; outside China it is still very rare in collections and no mature plants exist in these. It has only recently been freed of its official embargo. Although the species is now available in the trade in both Europe and the USA, it will probably remain a tree for collector's gardens only, as it has no remarkable horticultural merit.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): After its discovery in the 1950s, for many years this monotypic genus was considered to be an extremely rare conifer. Even herbarium specimens were very few and virtually nothing of it had reached botanic gardens and institutional herbaria outside China until very recently. It is a relatively rare conifer, but its extent of occurrence (EOO) is now known to encompass four provinces in south-central China and herbarium collections (in China) are known from at least 10 localities. It is usually growing on inaccessible slopes and ridges and is not considered to be a valuable timber resource due to small or medium size and 'poor shape' in logging terms. The populations are well protected but there is concern that they will be replaced by faster growing broadleaved species if regeneration continues to be poor. The species is now in cultivation in China and is slowly becoming available through some botanic gardens in the West, e.g. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Several localities are within reserves and it enjoys legal protection (1st degree protection on the national Chinese list).

Citation: Yang, Y. & Liao, W. 2013. Cathaya argyrophylla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 October 2014.
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