Larix mastersiana Rehder & E.H.Wilson

Pinaceae

China, endemic to W Sichuan where logging has been the main cause which has reduced the population size

Associated Names:

Distribution

Southwest China where it is endemic to W Sichuan (Motian Ling, Min River drainage, Jiajin Shan). Some localities based on collections made in the early decades of the twentieth century may no longer have any trees left; a recent survey found only the following three localities: Minjiang watershed, Daduhe watershed and upstream of Qingyijiang.

Once occurring in large stands, the species has been reduced to isolated and sparse populations. The State Forestry Bureau (2009) reported 78,539 individuals of all ages, distributed across 296ha (2.96km²). The timing of the surveys that resulted in these data is unknown. The number of mature individuals was not specified.

Habitat and Ecology

Larix mastersiana is a high mountain species of rare occurrence, its altitudinal range is between 2000 and 3500 metres above sea-level. It grows in podzolic mountain soils, usually on steep slopes with good drainage. The climate is cold-temperate and moist

Human Uses

A timber tree used for construction, pit props, railway sleepers and furniture; the bark yields tannins. It has been over-exploited in its natural range, especially in more accessible localities. Outside China, where it is used in afforestation, this species is not in cultivation except for a few specimens in living tree collections (arboreta).

Conservation Status

Global status

A2cd; B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)


Global rationale

Larix mastersiana currently has a very restricted area of occupancy (12km² using a standard 2 x 2km grid; actual AOO of 2.96km²) and is known from three locations. There has been a recent decline in both AOO and number of mature individuals due to recent logging and natural disasters. Additionally there has been an estimated decline of more than 70% within the last three generations as a result of logging between the 1950s and 1970s. Some regeneration within remaining locations has recently been recorded. On this basis, it is assessed as Endangered.

Global threats

Exploitation beyond sustainability has led to serious decline of this species in the more accessible parts of its limited natural range. It is now largely confined to the steeper and higher localities where forest road building has not advanced.Logging from the 1950s to the 1980s seriously depleted natural populations of this species. Previously pure stands were quite common however it is now very rare to find these. An earthquake in 2008 resulted in the destruction of some trees of this species.

Extraordinarily heavy snow in winter 2007-2008 also resulted in the destruction/damage of a number of trees. Natural regeneration is very poor (State Forestry Bureau 2009).

Conservation Actions

Recent Chinese policies (since 1998) to discontinue or at least restrict logging of the natural forests of Sichuan and other western regions may, if effective, halt or even reverse the decline. Afforestation using this species outside its natural range is not a true substitute for conservation of wild populations. The species remains extremely rare in cultivation both within China and in botanic gardens in other countries.