Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Pinaceae

Scientific Name: Abies bracteata
Species Authority: (D.Don) A.Poit.
Common Name(s):
English Santa Lucia Fir, Bristlecone Fir
Pinus bracteata D.Don
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: Abies bracteata is the only member of the subgenus Pseudotorreya within the genus Abies. It is not closely related to any other member of the genus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-08-10
Assessor(s): Thomas, P. & Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Stritch, L. & Ledig, F.T.
Abies bracteata has been assessed as Near Threatened on the basis of its restricted distribution, a decline in the quality of the habitat in areas surrounding existing stands due to the effects of Sudden Oak Death, poor regeneration and poor re-establishment potential. It is also potentially susceptible to indirect effects of climate change. Any further change in its status could lead to a listing as Endangered, under criterion B.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1998 Lower Risk/conservation dependent (LR/cd)
1998 Rare (R)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Bristlecone Fir is restricted to five main locations in the Santa Lucia Mountains of the central California coast in Monterey County and northwestern San Luis Obispo County at altitudes ranging from 213 m to 1,571 m. Its estimated extent of occupancy is about 710 km2. Its actual area of occupancy is estimated to be less than 20 km2 (Thorne et al. 2002). The majority of stands are in the northern part of its range. Using standard IUCN techniques, herbarium specimen based estimates of its extent of occurrence and area of occupancy give figures of 1485 km2 and  64 km2 respectively. All estimates are within the threshold for endangered. The number of locations varies from 6-20, depending on the threat used to define them. Subpopulations are regarded as severely fragmented.
Countries occurrence:
United States (California)
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:17
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:709
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:5
Lower elevation limit (metres):213
Upper elevation limit (metres):1571
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Generally occurs as small stands or scattered individuals in areas that are not prone to fire.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Throughout its range A. bracteata is restricted to steep north- and east-facing upland slopes and ridges, in canyon bottoms, and on raised stream benches and terraces.These areas are not prone to hot fires. It occurs either in mixed evergreen forests, canyon live oak communities or occassionally with Sequoia sempervirens, Pinus lambertiana and  P. ponderosa
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):40

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Santa Lucia Fir is no longer used for timber but it is an attractive and unusual species much valued in collections for botanic gardens and arboreta. It was successfully introduced and raised by the famous tree nursery of Veitch & Son near Chelsea in England in 1853, but it only became more common in horticulture later in the twentieth century when renewed seed collecting was undertaken. Trees in cultivation often grow much faster and taller than in their natural habitats in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): A. bracteata is not currently threatened by any form of utilization and almost all subpopulations are within protected areas so that changes in land-use are unlikely to occur in the near future. Under normal conditions, fire is a relatively minor risk as most stands are confined to areas that rarely burn. However, dieback of associated oak species through Sudden Oak Death may increase fuel-load in surrounding areas and heighten the risk of more intense fires. Additionally, climate change impacts such as variations in precipitation, associated changes in fire frequencies and intensities would be problematic. A. bracteata's ability to respond and adapt to changes in its environment is hampered by poor seed set associated with inbreeding and seed predation, infrequent regeneration and a lack of genetic diversity within and between subpopulations.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The majority of localities are within the Ventana Wilderness area of Los Padres National Forest protected areas.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.2. Genome resource bank

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):100
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.1. Increase in fire frequency/intensity
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%) ♦ severity: Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score: Medium Impact: 7 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.1. Habitat shifting & alteration
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%) ♦ severity: Unknown ⇒ Impact score: Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.2. Competition

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.2. Droughts
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Whole (>90%) ♦ severity: Unknown ⇒ Impact score: Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.2. Competition
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.8. Other

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

♦  Construction or structural materials
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Establishing ex-situ production *

Bibliography [top]

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

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Lanner, R.M. 1999. Conifers of California. Cachuma Press, Los Olivos, California.

Ledig, F.T., Hodgkiss, P.D. and Johnson, D.R. 2006. Genetic diversity and seed production in Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata), a relict of the Miocene Broadleaved Evergreen Forest. Conservation Genetics 7: 383-398.

Loarie, S.R., Carter, B.E., Hayhoe, K., McMahon, S., Moe, R., Knight, C.A. and Ackerly, D. 2008. Climate change and the future of California’s endemic flora. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002502.

Meentemeyer, R.K., Rank, N.E., Shoemaker, E., Oneal, E.C., Wickland, A.C., Frangioso, K.M. and Rizzo, E.D.M. 2008. Impact of sudden oak death on tree mortality in the Big Sur ecoregion of California. Biological Invasions 10(8): 1243-1255.

Sullivan, J. 1993. Abies bracteata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. Available at:

Thorne, J., Cameron, D. and Jigour, V. 2002. Wildlands Conservation in the Central Coast Region of California. California Wildernesss Coalition.

Citation: Thomas, P. & Farjon, A. 2013. Abies bracteata. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T34019A2840436. . Downloaded on 08 October 2015.
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