10 March 2001
Aljos FARJON & Christopher N. PAGE (compilers)
Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Conifers, Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan - Cover IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, 1999, ix + 121 pages, black-and-white photographs, tables, maps, references, appendix

ISBN 2-8317-0465-0

by Aljos Farjon

    'Conifers, that is pines, spruces, firs, and, oh yes... cypresses, and larches, are these endangered? Most people, when they think of conifers in nature, conjure up images of vast forests in Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia, perhaps in the Alps or the Rocky Mountains, built of spruces, firs, and pines. Surely these species are not in danger of extinction? Some years ago, there was much concern about the effects of acid rain in such forests near industrial centres in Europe and the USA. With the reduction of the emission of SO2, these problems are in many areas gradually being overcome. Forests (both planted and natural) may have been badly affected, but species were not because they commonly occurred outside the affected regions. Yet conifers, as species, are threatened with extinction globally. To appreciate this, we wil have to adjust the common perceptions indicated above and realise that the majority of conifer species do not occur in the northern lands but are scattered on all continents except Antarctica, mostly in small areas, often with very few individuals in a population.
    There are about 630 species of conifers world-wide. Despite the much smaller total land mass, nearly 200 of these are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, where extensive conifer forests are virtually non-existent. Many conifers, notably in the family Podocarpaceae, but also in Araucaraiceae, are restricted to the tropics, often in the mountain but also in lowlands. The fringes of deserts and desert mountains, as well as the high and arid plateaus of continents are home to yet other conifers, mostly unheard of in more temperate and boreal latitudes. The relatively small tropical Pacific island of New Caledonia has 43 species, all restricted to the island. And in many cases, these conifers have only relict populations that were historically much larger and more widespread. In the Action Plan, evidence shows that an astonishingly high proportion of conifer species are threatened with extinction. The main causes have nothing to do with air pollution, but are the common litany of ills accompanying the overpopulation of this planet with humans and their impact on the natural environment: exploitation, conversion of woods to farmland and urbanisation, degradation of woodland vegetation by excessive gathering of firewood, grazing of livestock, burning etc. What little is left after large-scale exploitation by the affluent portion of humankind is further deteriorated and destroyed by the larger and less well-off resident populations. The situation is bleak in many parts of the world. Yet conifers are highly important ecologically, economically, scientifically and, not least, aesthetically. They have existed in various forms for over 250 millions years, twice as long as the flowering plants.
    This Action Plan is the first attempt to address the conservation issues of conifers on a global scale, focusing on species (taxa), not forests as such, although the two aspects are intricately connected. It is neither complete, as important gaps in its coverage remain to be filled, nor does it 'solve' all of the problems identified. But the Conifer Specialist Group, whose combined expertise this document represents, believes that it has taken an important first step in presenting what we know of this difficult subject to a wider audience of conservationists and policy makers, whose awareness and subsequent help will bring us closer to the protection of this fascinating type of plant life.'

Aljos Farjon
Chair, IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group

Executive Summaryvi
    Resúmen (Spanish)vii
    Résumé (French)viii
Summary Table of Recommended Actionsix
Chapter 1   Global Assessment of Conifer Diversity and Threats1
Conifer diversity and distribution2
    Global diversity2
    Regional diversity6
Major threats to conifer survival7
Global red List of Conifers11
Chapter 2   Conservation Issues27
    Conservation incentives27
    Conservation priorities27
Recommendations for conservation action31
    Guidelines for in situ strategies31
    Strategies for ex situ conservation32
Integration of in situ and ex situ strategies36
    The role of botanic gardens in conifer conservation36
Summary of action recommendations37
Chapter 3   Regional Accounts40
New Caledonia Action Plan41
Himalayas Action Plan50
Mexico: Nueva Galicia Action Plan55
Caribbean Action Plan59
Tasmania Action Plan63
Southwest Pacific oceanic islands Action Plan72
Californianan Floristic Province Action Plan75
Chapter 4   Species Accounts89
Clanwilliam Cedar Widdringtonia cedarbergensis J.A.Marsh90
Giant Sequoia Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J.Buchholz92
Alerce Fitzroya cupressoides (Molina) I.M.Johnston95
Sicilian Fir Abies nebrodensis (Lojac.) Mattei97
Fiji Acmopyle Acmopyle sahniana J.Buchholz and N.E.Gray99
Bigcone Pinyon Pine Pinus maximartinezii Rezd101
Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptstroboides Hu and W.C.Cheng103
Krempf's Pine Pinus krempfii Lecomte105
White Berry Yew Pseudotaxus chienii (W.C.Cheng) W.C.Cheng106
Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani A.Rich108
Appendix 1   Conifer Specialist Group members and contributing authors112
Appendix 2   IUCN Red List Category Summaries114
Appendix 3   IUCN Protected Area Management Categories121

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10 March 2001