Xanthocyparis nootkatensis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Cupressaceae

Scientific Name: Xanthocyparis nootkatensis (D.Don) Farjon & Harder
Common Name(s):
English Alaska Cedar, Alaska Yellow-cedar, Nootka Cypress, Sitka Cypress, Yellow-cedar, Yellow-cypress
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D.Don) Spach
Cupressus nootkatensis D.Don
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: This species was previously listed under the name Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D.Don) Spach (see Farjon et al. 2002). It has also been separated from X. vietnamensis as a monospecific genus to which the species name Callitropsis nootkatensis has been applied (Debreczy et al. 2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2012-07-09
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis has a vast range and is common or abundant in many locations. It has been exploited for timber and is a slow growing tree to maturity.Yellow cedar decline continues in Alaska and British Columbia and appears to be related to changing climate conditions. Dieback is not a phenomenon occurring uniformly across the range, not all populations are affected similarly, with some populations remaining healthy and (re)productive. There appear to be adequate mature individuals to provide seed source into the future, but dieback remains quite widespread throughout the northern forests. At this stage, the decline is insufficient to qualify for any IUCN threat category and therefore this species is assessed as Least Concern.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Recorded from the Pacific Coast Region of NW North America, from Prince William Sound in Alaska to the Siskyou Mountains in California near the border with Oregon. With such a wide latitudinal distribution, this species' extent of occurrence is well beyond the thresholds for any threatened category. The area of occupancy is also beyond thresholds.
Countries occurrence:
Canada (British Columbia); United States (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington)
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Some subpopulations in Alaska and British Columbia have been impacted by Yellow Cedar Decline which appears to be related to changing climate conditions. This dieback is not a phenomenon occurring uniformly across the range, not all populations are affected similarly, with some populations remaining healthy and (re)productive (Hennon et al. 2012). The overall extent of the decline is not yet within the thresholds for any threatened category.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Occurring across a vast latitudinal range, this species is associated with different conifers from north to south and also along its altitudinal gradient (1-2,300 m a.s.l.). Common in Alaska are Picea sitchensis and, at higher altitudes, Pinus contorta and Tsuga mertensiana; in British Columbia Abies amabilis, P. contorta, P. monticola, Thuja plicata and Tsuga heterophylla and again at higher altitudes T. mertensiana; in the Cascades at lower altitudes Abies amabilis and A. procera, at higher altitudes A. lasiocarpa, P. albicaulis and T. mertensiana; and in its southernmost outlier the Siskiyou Mountains it is associated with A. magnifica, Calocedrus decurrens and Picea breweriana. A shrub-layer, in which ericaceous species often dominate, is usually well developed. Characteristic are stands, sometimes pure, or with P. contorta or T. mertensiana, forming a forest ecotone around bogs or near the tree line, with scrubby growth forms predominant on organic soils (derived from peat) in both habitats. As with all conifers in these forests, competition on better sites favours faster and taller growing species, which means X. nootkatensis is not codominant there and gets eventually pushed out to sites with shallow soils or nutrient deficient soils. However, it is also in much of its range probably the longest-lived conifer, with ages well over 1,500 years verified and in excess of 2,000 years, and probably even up to 3,500 years (trees of this inferred age are found to be hollow). It could therefore well exhibit a strategy tied in with episodic disturbance events in which certain individuals outlive all competitors and only regenerate after this rare event. The climate, especially in the very maritime near coastal strip and on ocean-facing slopes and islands, is cool and very wet
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):100

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The wood of this slow growing species is extremely durable and valuable, being used for boat building and other maritime building and generally for outdoor construction in cool and wet climate. Most of the high quality logs are being exported and a large proportion of the timber goes to Japan. In horticulture usually known as Nootka Cypress, this species is often used as an ornamental and a number of cultivars are known.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although 'dieback' (with largely unknown causes) has been reported in parts of its range, this species is widespread and occurs in many places that are still remote. Basically, the dieback phenomenon has been going on for many years, and appears to be related to changes in climate, in particular shifting snow pack is resulting in a lack of insulation to shallowly rooted trees. As winters continue to warm, and snowpack is less persistent increases in dieback are anticipated.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Nootka Cypress is present in numerous protected areas that represent portions of its entire range and include famous national parks, especially in the U.SA. Additionally, management strategies, particularly in the northern portions of the range, are being developed to model potential suitable habitats in the face of climate change, with potential to encourage conservation efforts in projected suitable habitat.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Xanthocyparis nootkatensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T44029A2991690. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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