Abies guatemalensis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Abies guatemalensis
Species Authority: Rehd.
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Guatemalan Fir
Spanish Pashaque, Abeto de Guatemala, Pinabere, Romerillo
Taxonomic Notes:

The morphometric study by Strandby et al. (2009) of the Central American Abies species suggests that A. guatemalensis should be a synonym of  A. religiosa subsp. mexicana, but this treatment is not being adopted for this assessment. However, the two  varieties A. guatemalensis var. jaliscana and var. tacanensis are included here under the species as recent studies show an overall lack of differences (Andersen et al. 2006, Aguirre-Planter et al. 2012). 

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2acd; B2ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2012-07-22
Assessor(s): Sørensen, M., Kollmann, J. & Gardner, M.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Farjon, A.

Historically A. guatemalensis has been an important timber species and as a result considerable loss of forest cover has occurred which is estimated to be ca. 50% over three generations (a generation here is estimated to 25–30 years). The loss of forest due to logging still continues today but at a slower rate. The recent trend of using the species for Christmas decorations in Guatemala and expanding urbanization has added to its decline. The area of occupancy of what remains has been estimated as being 270 km2 which is well within the threshold of 500 km2 for being classified as Endangered. This estimate is based on 258 km2 given by Andersen et al. (2006) for 92 of the 119 known forests plus an estimate of between 0.15 and 0.20 km2 for the remaining 26 forests. Deforestation has caused severe fragmentation and there continues to be a decline in the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy which has lead to the loss of some locations and a mature individuals. This species has therefore been assessed as being ‘Endangered’ under the A2 and B2 criteria.


1998 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Endemic to Central America where it occurs in: El Salvador: Departmento; Chalatenango; Guatemala: Departmentos; Chimaltenango, El Progreso, Huehuetenano, Jalapa, San Marcos, Sololá, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango and Quiché; Honduras: Departmentos; Copán, Lempira, Ocotepeque and Santa Barbara; Mexico: Estados: Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca and Tamaulipas.

The area occupancy is estimated as being ca.  270 km2 with 119 known localities/forests (Andersen et al. 2006)
El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico (Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There has been a marked decrease in the population of Abies guatemalensis, particularly in Guatemala where most of the population occurs. Up until the 19th century Abies guatemalensis was still plentiful in the western highlands of Guatemala and locally widespread in the 1940s, however, by the late 1950s most stands had been heavily exploited except for a small number of sites on national lands where cutting is prohibited (Standley and Steyermark 1958).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Forms a tall tree 35–40 m tall and 1–1.5 m dbh. It occurs in mountains at an altitudinal range of between 1,800–4,010 m where it is relatively cool and moist, and the climate is ‘oceanic', with most precipitation occurring as rain in summer or as fog all year round (Andersen et al. 2006). It is often found on northern slopes and in humid valleys with a precipitation of up to 1,000 mm, but most stands receive 1,500–3,000 mm (CAMCORE 1985). A. guatemalensis is usually associated with several highland conifers, such as Abies religiosa, Cupressus lusitanica, Pinus ayacahuite, P. hartwegii, P. michoacana, P. montezumae and P. pseudostrobus. At lower elevations Arbutus spp., Juniperus spp. and Quercus spp. co-occur and open forest stands are dominated by Arbutus xalapensis, Baccharis vaccinioides, Cestrum guatemalense, Litsea glaucescens, Rubus trilobus, Salvia cinnabarina and Sambucus mexicana. Abies guatemalensis is usually sparsely distributed and monospecific stands occur rarely. Cone production can be irregular (Veblen 1976), however, locally in Guatemala and not in communal forests, plenty of regeneration of both saplings and seedlings has been observed (U.S. Andersen,  pers. obs.) with good seed crops occurring every second or third year (CAMCORE 1985).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

The straight stems and the relatively soft wood make the species highly valued by local woodcutters for various construction purposes but it is also used for making shakes, shingles, tools, traditional woodcarvings and for charcoal production (Standley and Steyermark 1958). A more recent utilization is the harvest of Christmas trees and greenery, i.e. branches for decorative purposes. In Guatemala City recent surveys reveals that artificial trees constitute the highest income source for traders compared to other Christmas products traded. It has been estimated that around 70% of the artificial Christmas trees are made from branches using A. guatemalensis (Andersen et al. 2006).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Abies guatemalensis has a long history of exploitation as a valuable timber tree and for charcoal production, thus the remaining populations are restricted to a few remote mountain ranges with some protection in national parks or nature reserves (Andersen et al. 2006). However, illegal logging still takes place and a recent trend of using the species for Christmas decorations has become a market-driven incentive for poaching (Andersen et al. 2006).  In Guatemala and El Salvador, the highest human populations densities coincide with the main distribution of A. guatemalensis, which is having a negative impact on the remaining forest fragments (Andersen et al. 2006). In contrast, considerable intact forests remain in Honduras, however, the species is still being negatively affected by logging, forest pasture and clearing for agriculture (Andersen et al. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Felling is prohibited in some countries and the species is listed in CITES Appendix I. Although the model of strict protection, for example in national parks or nature reserves, may work in developed countries, it is problematic in poor countries where local communities make a livelihood from exploitation of natural resources, therefore, future conservation of Abies gutemalensis has to develop strategies, which work with the local people and give them clear benefits from conservation measures (Andersen et al. 2006).There needs to be a long-term sustainable management plan put in place in collaboration with local communities which should include supplying large quantities of sustainably produced greenery to the market and so reducing the potential of poaching within protected sites (Andersen et al. 2006).

Bibliography [top]

Aguirre-Planter, E., Furnier, G.R. and Eguiarte, L.E. 2010. Low levels of genetic variation within and high levels of genetic differentiation among populations of species of Abies from Southern Mexico and Guatemala. American Journal of Botany 87(362-371).

Aguirre-Planter, É., Jaramillo-Correa, J.P., Gómez-Acevedo, S., Khasa, D. P., Bousquet, J. and Eguiarte, L.E. 2012. Phylogeny, diversification rates and species boundaries of Mesoamerican firs (Abies, Pinaceae) in a genus-wide context. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62(1): 263-274.

Andersen, U.S., Cordova, J.P., Sorensen, M. and Kollmann, J. 2006. Conservation and utilisation of Abies guatemalensis Rehder (Pinaceae) - an endangered endemic conifer in Central America. Biodiversity & Conservation 15(10): 3131-3151.

CAMCORE. 1985. Abies guatemalensis – A two year status report. Bulletin on Tropical Forestry 3.

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

Jaramillo-Correa, J.P., Aguirre-Planter, E., Khasa, D.P., Eguiarte, L.E., Piñero, D., Furnier, G.R. and Bousquet, J. 2008. Ancestry and divergence of subtropical montane forest isolates: molecular biogeography of the genus Abies (Pinaceae) in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Molecular Ecology 17: 2476-2490.

Lopez, E., Granados, P., Espinosa, P., Elıas, A., Albacete, C. and Navas, O. 1999. Diagnostico de las poblaciones naturales de pinabete (Abies guatemalensis R.) en Guatemala y estrategia para su conservacion. Co-ediciones Tecnicas. Documento No. 11. CONAP-INAB-USAID, Guatemala.

Martínez, M. 1948. Las Abies méxicanas. Anales Inst. Biol. Nac. México 19(1-2): 11-104.

Rehder, A. 1939. The firs of Mexico and Guatemala. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 20(3): 281-287.

Silba, J. 1997. Abies guatemalensis var. tamaulipasensis. Journal of the International Conifer Preservation Society 5: 45.

Standley, P.C. and Steyermark, J.A. 1958. Abies guatemalensis. Fieldiana: Botany 24.: 37-40.

Strandby, U., Cristensen, K. and Sørensen, M. 2009. A morphometric study of the Abies religiosa–hickelii–guatemalensis complex (Pinaceae) in Guatemala and Mexico. Plant Systematics and Evolution 260: 59-76.

Veblen, T.T. 1976. The urgent need for forest conservation in highland Guatemala. Biological Conservation 9: 141-154.

Citation: Sørensen, M., Kollmann, J. & Gardner, M. 2013. Abies guatemalensis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 April 2015.
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