Araucaria (Araucaria schmidii)

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Araucaria schmidii mature trees
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Araucaria fact file

Araucaria description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassConiferopsida
OrderConiferales
FamilyAraucariaceae
GenusAraucaria (1)

Araucaria schmidii is a rare conifer found only on New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. Reaching heights of up to 30 metres, this attractive tree has light to dark grey bark which is mottled with brown and peels off the trunk in narrow horizontal strips (2). The branches are long but narrow, and turn up abruptly at the tips, so that the tree somewhat resembles a chandelier (3). The crown is a narrow cylinder of branches over-topped by a broader, flat-topped umbrella of branches that extend out by up to two metres (2)

The needle-like leaves on mature Araucaria schmidii trees are usually dark green and triangular in shape, and measure 7 to 10 millimetres long and 1.5 to 2 millimetres wide. The leaves on juvenile trees are yellowish-green, diamond-shaped and curl inwards at the tip, and measure around 18 millimetres long and around 2 millimetres wide (4).

Size
Height: 20 - 30 m (2)
Trunk diameter: 0.3 - 0.6 m (2)
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Araucaria biology

Like most Araucaria species (2), Araucaria schmidii is monoecious, with male and female cones occurring on the same tree, borne at the tips of the branchlets (3). The female cone, or seed cone, of Araucaria schmidii usually grows at the top of the tree. It is roughly spherical, measuring 8.5 to 10 centimetres in diameter, and is dark green when ripe, with pale green to light reddish brown bract tips (2). Araucaria schmidii apparently produces the female cones first (3). The male cone, or pollen cone, is dark green and more triangular in shape, measuring around 5 to 10 centimetres in length and 1 to 15 centimetres width (2).

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Araucaria range

Endemic to New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, Araucaria schmidii is found between elevations of 1,300 and 1,630 metres, from Mount Panié along the continuous mountain ranges to Mount Colnett (1) (2) (4).

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Araucaria habitat

Araucaria schmidii is found only in montane cloud forest of New Caledonia (1).

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Araucaria status

Araucaria schmidii is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Araucaria threats

With a rich and varied floral community, comprising some 3,063 native species, New Caledonia has long been considered a biodiversity ‘hotspot’ (5). This great diversity is very much reflected in the conifer community, and there are no fewer than 43 species. Considering that the total number of conifers in the world is only around 630, New Caledonia holds international significance for conifer conservation (6)

However, as on many Pacific islands, the native vegetation of New Caledonia has been significantly modified by human activities, with over 50 percent of the original cover now gone (5) (7). The island has the largest known nickel deposits in the world (7), and land clearance for mining is the greatest threat to the many endemic conifers, which are often restricted to the mineral-rich areas from which the nickel ore is obtained. In addition to causing widespread deforestation, mining activities have also resulted in large waste heaps and increased erosion. Further threats to the native vegetation include human-generated wildfires, which are often started deliberately to clear brush, as well as agriculture, livestock grazing, and the spread of invasive exotic species (5) (7) (8)

Araucaria schmidii is known only from a few locations within a very narrow altitudinal range. Along with its small population size, this makes Araucaria schmidii extremely vulnerable to habitat degradation, as well as extreme weather events and disease, including the pathogen Phytophthora (1).

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Araucaria conservation

For its size, New Caledonia has a remarkably unique and diverse flora and fauna (5) (7) (9). In addition, 74 percent of all known plant species there are endemic (5) (7), as are all but one conifer species (6) (7). Two thirds of the world’s Araucaria species are also unique to this island (3) (7). However, the protected area network on New Caledonia is not currently representative of this diversity, and most of the island’s native plants, do not occur in any protected areas. In addition, very few existing reserves are covered by any mining regulations (5) (7)

Conservation priorities for New Caledonia therefore include the expansion of its protected area network, with the creation of new, more representative reserves, as well as a ban on mining within these areas (6) (7) (8) (9). More effective fire control, public education programmes, the control of invasive species, and the potential development of ecotourism have also been recommended (6) (7) (8) (9)

Araucaria schmidii has not been the target of any known conservation measures, but it is protected within the Mont Panié Special Botanical Reserve (1).

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Find out more

Find out more about the conservation of Araucaria schmidii and other conifer species:

More information on conservation on New Caledonia:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Bract
Modified leaf at the base of a flower.
Cloud forest
A tropical mountain forest, with a high incidence of cloud cover throughout the year.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Monoecious
An organism in which separate male and female organs occur on the same individual.
Montane
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  3. Veillon, J.M. (1978) Architecture of the New Caledonian species of Araucaria. In: Tomlinson, P.B. and Zimmermann, M.H. (Eds.) Tropical Trees as Living Systems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  4. Forestis: Herbarium eFlorae Quebecensis - Araucaria schmidii (June, 2011)
    http://forestis.rsvs.ulaval.ca/www.botanik.uni-bonn.de/conifers/ar/ar/schmidii.htm
  5. Jaffré, T., Bouchet, P. and Veillon, J.M. (1998) Threatened plants of New Caledonia: is the system of protected areas adequate? Biodiversity and Conservation, 7: 109-135.
  6. Farjon, A. and Page, C.N. (1999) Conifers: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/1999-024.pdf
  7. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - New Caledonia (June, 2011)
    http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/new_caledonia/Pages/default.aspx
  8. Jaffré, T., Munzinger, J. and Lowry II, P.P. (2010) Threats to the conifer species found on New Caledonia’s ultramafic massifs and proposals for urgently needed measures to improve their protection. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19: 1485-1502.
  9. WWF: New Caledonia Moist Forests (June, 2011)
    http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/ecoregions/newcaledonia_moist_forests.cfm
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Image credit

Araucaria schmidii mature trees  
Araucaria schmidii mature trees

© Gildas Gâteblé

Gildas Gâteblé
Institut Agronomique néo-Calédonien
Station de Recherche Agronomique de St Louis BP 711 98810 MONT DORE
New Caledonia
Tel: (687) 43-70-15
Fax: (687) 43-70-16
gateble@iac.nc
http://www.iac.nc

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