Tuesday 21 May
Sicilian fir (Abies nebrodensis)
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Sicilian fir fact file
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Sicilian fir description
This tall evergreen tree is known only from a single location. It has the characteristic fir tree shape, with a tall straight trunk and a broad, conical crown (2). In mature trees the bark is rough and scaly (2). The blunt, rounded leaves are located in whorls, in contrast to other firs in the region (3). Female cones are upright and cylindrical, and they turn brown when mature (2).Top
Sicilian fir biology
The Sicilian fir is an evergreen, and it therefore retains its leaves all year round. Both male and female cones appear on the same tree; once the seeds within the female cone are ripe, the cones disintegrate, leaving the seeds to drop to the forest floor (4).Top
Sicilian fir range
Endemic to the island of Sicily, in the Mediterranean (1). This fir was once widespread in the Madonie Mountains but is today restricted to around 100 hectares in and around the Madonna degli Angeli Valley (3). Believed to be extinct at the turn of the 20th Century, the species was rediscovered in 1957 but only around 30 mature individuals persist in the wild today (3).Top
Sicilian fir habitat
Found on rocky, calcareous soil (2) between 1,400 and 1,650 metres above sea level (3). It is thought that mixed forests of Sicilian fir together with the beech Fagus sylvatica (2), and Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) were once more widespread at lower altitudes in these mountains (3).Top
Sicilian fir status
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR - D) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).Top
Sicilian fir threats
The Sicilian fir was already severely reduced by the beginning of the 19th Century as a result of extensive logging for timber and firewood (3). This species appears to be facing competition from the beech Fagus sylvatica, which may be more adaptable to climatic changes. A reduction in deep soil following deforestation could also have played a part in the decline of the Sicilian fir (2). The small numbers of firs remaining are now at an inherent risk from any chance event, and fire poses a particular danger.Top
Sicilian fir conservation
The Sicilian fir has been the subject of a concerted conservation programme to protect this rare and unique local species. The remaining wild trees occur within a Regional Park; grazing and visitor numbers in the valley are carefully controlled, and the trees are monitored and fenced off (3). In addition, an
Authenticated (7/11/03) by Hugh Singe, Editor of Plant Talk, the magazine on plant conservation worldwide.
- Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Measures to conserve a species or habitat that occur outside of the natural range of the species. E.g. in zoos or botanical gardens.
- In animals, the spiral or convolutions in the shell of a snail. In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.
- IUCN Red List (January, 2003)
- Farjon, A. and Page, C. (1999) Conifers: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group, Online.
- Akeroyd, J. (2003) Rare firs and fan-palms lead conservation in Sicily. Plant Talk, 24: 26 - 30.
- Gelderen, D.M. (1996) Conifers: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. (Vol. 1). Timber Press, Oregon.
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