Abies squamata Mast.

Pinaceae

Distributed in China and Tibet where direct exploitation for timber has led to a decline in the population

Associated Names:

Flaky fir

Distribution

Native to China in S Gansu, S Qinghai (Baima Xian), W Sichuan, and E Xizang [Tibet] (Markam Xian). This species is widespread and locally common.

Habitat and Ecology

A subalpine species of the high mountains of western China, where it occurs between 3500 to 4500 metres above sea-level (3000-4700m according to Liu (1971)) making it one of the highest elevation trees in the world. The soils are commonly grey-brown mountain podzols or lithosols. The climate is cold, relatively dry (arid in E Xizang), but usually perpetual snow at higher elevations provides sufficient moisture throughout the year. It is a constituent of mixed coniferous high altitude forests, with among other species Abies recurvata, A. fargesii var. faxoniana, Picea likiangensis var. rubescens, P. asperata, P. linzhiensis (in E Xizang), Larix potaninii and possibly also Tsuga forrestii. There are very few broad-leaved trees at these high elevations, Betula albosinensis and B. utilis var. prattii being the most common.

Conservation Status

Global status and rationale

Vulnerable A2d

This species was exploited in the past for its timber and it is estimated that there has been at least a 30% population reduction in the past three generations (150 years). It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Global threats

At these high altitudes, forests form isolated patches on favourable sites, surrounded by treeless subalpine vegetation. Direct exploitation of the timber in these forest remnants is unsustainable due to very slow growth and past exploitation has led to a decline of this and other conifer tree species in these forests.

Conservation Actions

The Government of China has imposed a logging ban in western China.