Abies fraseri


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Abies fraseri
Species Authority: (Pursh) Poir.
Common Name(s):
English Fraser's Fir, Fraser Fir, She Balsam
Pinus fraseri Pursh

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-05-11
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.
The decline of the population due to an alien pathogen (insect) since the 1960s has been very substantial and is apparently ongoing, probably at a slower rate than initially. Its area of occupancy when calculated on a fairly comprehensive set of herbarium specimen based localities (some may now be dead trees only) even when using a grid size of 4×4 km per locality (22 collections = 16 localities) remains well under 500 km² (the threshold for Endangered) and with a continuing decline this species meets the B2 criterion for Endangered.
1998 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Endemic to the USA where it occurs in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and SW Virginia (Appalachian Mts.).
United States (North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Small subpopulations are known from six peaks, including the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: On the highest slopes and summits of the Appalachian Mountains, between 1,200 m and 2,038 m a.s.l., usually best developed on north-facing slopes. The soils are commonly podzolized and moderately acid. The climate is humid, with cool summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, annual precipitation varies between 850 mm and 2,000 mm. Fraser Fir occurs in scattered populations, sometimes pure at the highest elevations, but more often mixed with Picea rubens and Betula papyrifera above 1,500 m, at lower elevations also with Tsuga caroliniana, Betula alleghaniensis, Sorbus americana, Acer saccharum and Fraxinus caroliniana. Ericaceae and various herbs are common in the understorey, often thick moss carpets (Hylocomium splendens) cover the forest floor.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The remaining stands of Fraser Fir have very limited commercial value as timber trees. The most important use is growing this species for Christmas trees; it is considered the best conifer available in the US for this purpose. It has a natural 'Christmas tree shape' and retains its fragrant, dark green leaves well for this indoor use. It is also widely used as an ornamental tree for gardens with several cultivars named. At least in the UK it does not usually have a very long life as a garden tree

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The disjunct subpopulations of this fir, restricted to the mountain tops and their north-facing slopes of the southern Appalachians, are susceptible to destruction by windfall and fire. However, by far the most damaging agent is an insect, the Balsam Woolly Adelgid (Adelges piceae) discovered in 1957 in Abies fraseri on Mt. Mitchell. This alien pest has spread quickly to all subpopulations causing massive dieback through impairment of translocation flow in the cambium. Millions of trees had died by the 1980s and only one substantial population (Mt. Rogers, Virginia) remained largely unaffected (Beck 1990). After massive die-back competitors such as Picea rubra and Betula sp. can take over dominance in several locations in North Carolina (DeSelm and Boner 1984).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Methods to control this introduced insect are still being researched but none have been fully effective; some small scale protection can be provided by chemical insecticides. The latter strategy is very costly and is only used in plantations for Christmas trees and in some high profile recreation areas. In some stands that have died, there is massive seedling recruitment, and some of these seem to go through new infestations only partially damaged. It is hoped that eventually resistance may build up from these individuals.

Bibliography [top]

Beck, D.E. 1991. Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir. – Fraser Fir. In: R.M. Burns. and B.H. Honkala (eds), Silvics of North America. Vol. 1. Conifers. USDA Forest Service Agric. Handb. 654. , pp. 47-51. USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.

DeSelm, H. R. and Boner, R.R. 1984. Understory changes in spruce-fir during the first 16-20 years following the death of fir. In: P.S. White (ed.), Southern Appalachian spruce-fir ecosystem: its biology and threats. Research/Resources Management Report SER-71. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Southeast Region, Atlanta, GA.

Farjon, A. et al. 1998. Data collection forms for conifer species completed by the IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group between 1996 and 1998.

Farjon, A., Page, C.N. and Schellevis, N. 1993. A preliminary world list of threatened conifer taxa. Biodiversity and Conservation 2: 304-326.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Moore, P.T., Van Miegreot, H. and Nicholas, N.S. 2008. Examination of forest recovery scenarios in a southern Appalachian Picea – Abies forest. Forestry 81(2): 183-194.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Abies fraseri. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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