Ziyuan Fir discovery brings new hope for one of China’s most threatened trees

Twenty-one Ziyuan Fir (Abies ziyuanensis) trees have been discovered after eight months of intensive fieldwork in Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve (NR), Guangxi, China according to David Gill from SOS Grantee and IUCN Member, FFI (Fauna and Flora International). SOS funded this Abies species conservation project in January this year.

The rangers in search of Ziyuan Fir

The Ziyuan Fir (Abies ziyuanensis) and Yuanbaoshan Fir (Abies yuanbaoshanensis) are two of the most highly threatened tree species in China.

Restricted to limited areas in southern China, both species have small and declining populations: less than 300 Yuanbaoshan Firs and 600 Ziyuan Firs remain in their wild habitat. According to the IUCN Red List, Ziyuan Fir is classified as Endangered and Yuanbaoshan Fir as Critically Endangered. Although on the edge of extinction, effective conservation interventions for both species have been lacking explains David.

The project team in China has put together a team including local authorities, nature reserves, local communities and a scientific institution with an objective to promote the natural regeneration of both Abies species.

As part of ground-breaking agreement signed in June 2014, Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve, Yuanbaoshan National Nature Reserve, the Ziyuan Forestry Department, Rongshui Forestry Department, Guangxi Institute of Botany and Guangxi Forestry Bureau all committed to provide staff, and facilities in a collaborative bid to save the species.

After three months of planning, the formal field work began in March, and was accompanied by patrolling and monitoring of the Yinzhulaoshan reserve. Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve (NR), in North Guangxi, is home to a genetically unique population of Ziyuan Firs that had undergone a severe decline from 2,500 individuals in 1979 to only 50 individuals recorded in 2012. A team of four nature reserve staff and six rangers took turns to comb the reserve in search for Ziyuan Fir trees by walking zigzag lines across different topographies.

Although several field surveys have been carried out since the 1980s, nobody has ever completed a comprehensive survey of the whole 5000 hectare nature reserve. Therefore there was still hope that additional Ziyuan Firs might exist in unexplored parts of the forest. By October a total of twenty-one new Ziyuan Fir individuals, both small seedlings and adult trees were identified.

The discovery of these additional Ziyuan Firs increases the tree’s known population size in the reserve from 50 to 71 individuals and each of them will play a key role in the survival of the species. These new findings provided a great encouragement for further work and research to all staff working within the project, David elaborates.

Yinzhulaoshan NR has already applied to local government to upgrade its status from a provincial to a national level nature reserve, highlighting the importance of the area for the conservation of Abies species.

Protecting threatened species is critical because we are protecting parts of our life support system. Wildlife and nature supply us with so many basic necessities from food to fuel and shelter, but also inspiration in art, language and design to name but a few examples. Right now we are protecting more than 200 species please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
Red List
Environmental Law
Asian Species Action Partnership
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