Abies alba 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Pinaceae

Scientific Name: Abies alba Mill.
Common Name(s):
English Silver Fir
French Sapin pectiné
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: In the Balkans introgression with Abies cephalonica, during repeated advances of A. alba from the north during the Pleistocene, has caused the boundary to be unclear and there is a putative hybrid A.x borissii-regis (Farjon and Filer 2013).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2015-09-17
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Leaman, D.J., Chadburn, H., Allen, D.J. & Thomas, P.
Contributor(s): Chadburn, H.
Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 28 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

This tree is the only widespread species of fir in Europe. Its extent of occurrence (EOO), area of occupancy (AOO) and population are beyond any of the thresholds for a threatened category and there is no evidence of continuing decline, and in some areas it is probably increasing. As a result it is assessed as Least Concern. The tree is also Least Concern at the EU28 member state level.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This tree is a European endemic. It is widespread in central Europe and is found in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathians, Corsica, Italy, and the Balkan Peninsula to Bulgaria and northern Greece (Farjon 2010, Farjon and Filer 2013, Mauri et al. 2016).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Andorra; Austria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland)); Hungary; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna); Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Montenegro; Poland; Romania; Serbia (Kosovo, Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Switzerland; Ukraine (Ukraine (main part))
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):300
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is large and the overall population trend is stable, with losses in some areas (e.g., in the Spanish Pyrenees; Oliva and Colinas 2007) but with some increases in areas where natural regeneration is promoted. In some parts of its range it is rare, for example, in the central Alps where a drier and colder climate prevails and in most of the Apennines in Italy (Farjon and Filer 2013).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Under favourable conditions, this fir tree can reach an age of 500 to 600 years and tree heights up to 60 m (Wolf 2003). Primarily a montane species, usually occurring between 500 and 1,500 m, but as low as 300 m in the Bavarian Forest, up to 2,000 m in the Pyrenees and in the Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria. Soils are usually well drained sandy loams from silicate rocks or limestone derivatives. The preferred climate is cool temperate, comparatively humid (precipitation often >1,000 mm/year), with abundant snowfall but moderately low temperatures in the winter.

The species often forms large forests, either pure, mixed with other conifers (Picea abies, locally Pinus sylvestris) or mixed with broad leaved trees (Fagus sylvatica), in a belt between deciduous forest in the valleys and coniferous forest composed of other species of Pinaceae towards the tree limit. Of the European native conifers, this fir is most capable of competing with Beech (F. sylvatica) at altitudes where the latter becomes less vigorous and is the first of the conifers to appear among them (Ellenberg 1988).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):40

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This is an important timber tree in western and central Europe, where most forests are semi-natural and managed with a view to encourage fir regeneration and growth at the expense of competitors. It is not very successful as a plantation forestry tree outside its natural areas of occurrence; one cause of this may be damage done by insect pests, which may be more prolific in monocultures and in areas with mild winters such as in the British Isles. Its most famous use in the past was for the masts of seventeenth century ships. Most of its wood today is used for plywood and veneer as it is evenly grained, light, and easily worked. Minor uses are for soundboards in musical instruments, boxes, wood carving, and sometimes for joinery.

The buds, bark and leaves are all believed to have medicinal properties, for example, antiseptic, antibiotic, diuretic and balsamic. Distillation of the leaf essential oils has in the past been used to produce remedies for sprains and bruises and the leaves and resin are ingredients for remedies for coughs and colds. The resin can be added to bathes to soothe rheumatic pains and neuralgia.

In Britain it was used as a Christmas tree in the nineteenth century when Prince Albert popularized the tradition; its use has declined since in favour of the more quickly and cheaply produced Norway Spruce. In horticulture Silver Fir is uncommon and mostly restricted to arboreta; a number of cultivars are known but few are common in the trade. The bark can be ground and used to thicken soups and in bread making as a subsistence food (Wolf 2003, PFAF 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The area of occupancy has been reduced over the last two centuries as a result of  deforestation, over-exploitation and afforestation with faster growing exotic species. Air pollution and acid rain have also affected stands in some parts of its range. Over the last several decades this decline has ceased as patterns of land use changed, forest management priorities shifted and air pollution levels dropped.

Mauri et al. (2016) also cite animal browsing as a cause of recent declines in Switzerland. The impact of climatic warming on the distribution and population of the species is uncertain (Mauri et al. 2016) and requires further research.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This fir tree occurs in numerous protected areas throughout its range. Examples include Pirin National Park in Bulgaria and Apuseni National Park in Romania (where extensive stands of undisturbed forest are protected; Feurdean and Willis 2008). It is also listed in 135 Natura 2000 sites (EUNIS 2014). Guidelines have also been produced to aid forest managers to encourage fir regeneration in managed forests and to control the type of replanting material used in those areas (Wolf 2003). It is conserved ex situ in 125 botanic gardens worldwide (BCGI 2013). It is not known whether any seeds are stored in seed banks, although their suitability is cited (Wolf 2003).

Citation: Farjon, A. 2017. Abies alba. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T42270A83978869. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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