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Closer look: Fir trees in Asia

Dr Hu Xinghua conducting artifical pollination. Credit: Ding Tao-GIB
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Written by: Olivia Bailey
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The closely-related Yuanbaoshan and Ziyuan firs are two of the most highly threatened tree species in China. Belonging to the genus Abies, both species are restricted to small areas in southern China and have small, declining populations.

When they were discovered in 1980 these trees numbered several thousand. Today, however, there are fewer than 600 Ziyuan and 800 Yuanbaoshan firs remaining. They face threats from habitat degradation, limited natural regeneration, climate change, and logging.

Due to the rarity of these trees, Yuanbaoshan National Nature Reserve and Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve, in North Guangxi, were established to help protect them.

These nature reserves have also contributed to the conservation of many other species including over 1,700 species of vascular plant in Yuanbaoshan Nature Reserve.

Community monitoring and protection of adult Ziyuan fir trees. Credit: Lin Wuying/FFI.

Community monitoring and protection of adult Ziyuan fir trees. Credit: Lin Wuying/FFI.

Limited natural regeneration

Both Yuanbaoshan and Ziyuan firs have limited opportunities for natural regeneration due to their population structure and the effects of climate change. The remaining population of Yuanbaoshan firs is made up of mostly old or very young individuals, while (arguably as a result of climate change) female and male Ziyuan firs rarely flower in synchrony – so cannot give and receive pollen.

To increase the chances of natural regeneration, Guangxi Institute of Botany (GIB) have carried out successful experiments collecting and transferring pollen from male Ziyuan firs to the flowers of female trees.

A tiny Ziyuan fir seedling. Credit: Ding Tao/Guangxi Institute of Botany.

A tiny Ziyuan fir seedling. Credit: Ding Tao/Guangxi Institute of Botany.

How Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is helping

FFI China programme and the Guangxi Institute of Botany (GIB) are working together with local authorities and communities to support nature reserves and improve long-term habitat management.

Since 2013, FFI has been addressing habitat degradation by implementing a number of management interventions, including monitoring and targeted control of species that prevent natural regeneration of Abies trees.

The project has also helped to boost the capacity of both nature reserves by providing training courses, mentoring and opportunities to exchange experiences and knowledge with other reserves in southern China.

By increasing the technical and management capacity of local staff, FFI can ensure that the conservation of the Abies trees and other species within the reserves can continue long into the future.

The project is also part of the Global Trees Campaign, a partnership between FFI and Botanic Gardens Conservation International, which aims to prevent tree species extinctions in the wild, ensuring their benefits for people, wildlife and the wider environment.

Staff from FFI, Guangxi Institute of Botany and Yinzhulaoshan Nature Reserve at the regeneration site. Credit: Dave Gill/FFI.

Staff from FFI, Guangxi Institute of Botany and Yinzhulaoshan Nature Reserve at the regeneration site. Credit: Dave Gill/FFI.

This project is supported by SOS – Save Our Species (a joint initiative of IUCN, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank) and the Mohamed bin-Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

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Olivia Bailey

Olivia Bailey is Fauna & Flora International’s Communications Assistant. With a BSc in Zoology, Olivia is passionate about connecting people with nature to create a sustainable future.

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