Abies alba

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA PINOPSIDA PINALES PINACEAE

Scientific Name: Abies alba
Species Authority: Mill.
Common Name(s):
English Silver Fir
French Sapin pectiné
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: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-02-13
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Leaman, D.J., Chadburn, H. & Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Chadburn, H.
Justification:
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. In some areas it is probably increasing. As a result it is assessed as Least Concern.
History:
2013 Least Concern

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, the Balkan Peninsula to Bulgaria and northern Greece (Farjon 2010, Farjon and Filer 2013).
Countries:
Native:
Albania; Andorra; Austria; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland)); Hungary; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Montenegro; Poland; Romania; Serbia (Kosovo, Serbia, Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine (Ukraine (main part))
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 Appenines in Italy (Farjon and Filer 2013).
Population Trend: Stable

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).
Systems: Terrestrial

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 White 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 species' 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 effected 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.

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).

Bibliography [top]

BGCI. 2013. Botanic Gardens Conservation International: Plant Search. Available at: http://www.bgci.org/plant_search.php.

Ellenberg, H. 1988. Vegetation Ecology of Central Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

EUNIS. 2014. Biodiversity database. Available at: http://eunis.eea.europa.eu/. (Accessed: 2014).

Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.

Farjon, A. and Filer, D. 2013. An Atlas of the World's Conifers. Brill, Leiden/Boston.

Feurdean, A. and Willis, K.J. 2008. Long-term variability of Abies alba in NW Romania: implications for its conservation management. Diversity and Distributions 14: 1004-1017.

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 12 June 2014).

Oliva, J. and Colinas, C. 2007. Decline of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) stands in the Spanish Pyrenees: Role of management, historic dynamics and pathogens. Forest Ecology and Management 252: 84-97.

PFAF. 2014. Plants for a future. Available at: www.pfaf.org.

Wolf, H. 2003. EUFORGEN Technical Guidelines for genetic conservation and use for silver fir (Abies alba). International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.


Citation: Farjon, A. 2014. Abies alba. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 15 September 2014.
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