Athrotaxis selaginoides D.Don

Cupressaceae

One of two Athrotaxis species endemic to Tasmania where historically it has suffered from fire and logging. Today, even with protection, there is a continuing decline due to fire.

Associated Names:

King William pine and King Billy pine

Distribution

Endemic to Tasmania, Australia and widely distributed in the higlands of west and south-western parts of the island.

Habitat and Ecology

Commonly in the transition zone to (above) montane Eucalyptus woodland; at higher altitudes less frequent, there often on lake shores or alongside streams in sheltered places. The altitudinal range is (400–)730–1200m aabove sea-level. Associated with Richea scoparia, R. pandanifolia, Nothofagus cunninghamii, N. gunnii, Atherosperma spp., Gahnia grandis, Telopea spp., Orites spp., Melaleuca spp., Leptospermum scoparium, Eucalyptus spp., Diselma archeri, Pherosphaera hookeriana and Phyllocladus aspleniifolius. Soils are more or less acidic, rocky (talus) or peaty and usually wet.

Human Uses

King Billy pine provides some excellent wood for special uses like wood carving and turning. However, virtually all trees, including dead wood, are now within protected areas and removal is prohibited. In horticulture it is present only in arboreta and other botanical collections, especially in the British Isles, where several large trees can now be seen.

Conservation Status

Global status and rationale

Vulnerable A2cd; B1ab(ii,iii,v)+2ab(ii,iii,v)

The extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) are below the threshold for Vulnerable (VU) even considering uncertainties in the calculation based on herbarium collection data. Localities mapped by Brown & Hill (in Farjon & Page, 1999) in the SW of Tasmania are not represented by herbarium specimens. Allowing for these and other omissions, the AOO in particular would be substantially less than 2000 km². There has been an estimated decline over the last 200 years of at least 40%, primarily due to fires. While decline has slowed, it has not ceased. This species thus meets the B criterion for VU.

Global threats

The major cause of past decline has been fire, with about 1/3 of its habitat burnt in the twentieth century. Like the other two Athrotaxis species, A. selaginoides is sensitive to fire. Another cause of past decline has been logging. The overall decline is estimated to be about 40% over the last 200 years. This is within the three generation time limit where one generation is estimated to be at least 100 years. Although 84% of forests containing this species are now in protected areas, fires still are a potential hazard. Tasmanian Government policy precludes logging of this species in and outside these reserves.

Conservation Actions

Almost 84% of the entire population is contained within protected areas.