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Abies marocana
Moroccan fir

Moroccan fir (Abies marocana) is a medium-sized, narrow coniferous tree belonging to the group of Mediterranean firs. The species is often treated as a subspecies of the Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo).

Due to fires and forest clearings, the distribution of the tree declined by 70% from 1938-1994. As a result, the tree is now limited to a small area in the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco, where remaining stands are protected in a national park. This current status has also diminished the use of the wood for construction; however, essential oils obtained from the tree’s seeds are used in the perfume industry and in traditional medicines to treat respiratory problems.  

The Moroccan fir favours an altitudinal range between 1400-1800 m in humid bioclimates. Optimal growth occurs in dolomitic limestone soils on north-facing slopes.

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Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use

Abies spp - Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use for Mediterranean firs

Publication Year: 2011
Author: Alizoti, P.G. ; Fady, B.; Prada, M.A.; Vendramin, G.G.

Due to the threats, endemism and geographically scattered distribution, the conservation of Mediterranean firs and their genetic resources is a major challenge.

The genetic resources of the firs are currently conserved in various protected areas that have rarely been established for this purpose. Due to their evolutionary history and specific adaptation, the fir forests harbour unique genetic resources that are important beyond the Mediterranean. Thus, the establishment of conservation units for the firs that meet pan-European minimum requirements for dynamic gene conservation is of crucial importance.

At present, several of the species and their genetic resources are protected either in situ (national parks, nature reserves and gene conservation units) or ex situ (conservation seed orchards and stands). The critically endangered A. nebrodensis is conserved in situ in the Madonie Regional Park in Sicily, but the reinforcement of the species has been problematic mainly due to soil degradation in its natural habitat. A. nebrodensis is also conserved ex situ in a seed orchard (with grafts of the 29 remaining individuals of the species) in Arezzo, in botanical gardens (40 000 plants in the Botanical Garden of Palermo), arboreta and in private properties in the Madonie Mountains close to the natural habitat. A. borisiiregis and A. cephalonica are protected in situ in various protected areas in Greece. Genetic material, representing almost the whole natural distribution of the fir species, is included in provenance trials established in Greece and France. A. cilicica is protected in national parks, nature reserves and seed stands in ten areas in Turkey and in Lebanon while in Syria it is considered as an endangered species. A. equi-trojani is conserved in situ in the Kazdagi Goknari nature reserve in Turkey. A. nordmanniana is also covered by protected areas in Turkey and several provenances are growing ex situ in test sites, plantations and arboreta in Denmark and France. The A. pinsapo forests are included in three protected areas in Spain. A. numidica is protected in the Djebel Barbor nature reserve located in the Petite Kabylia Mountain range of Algeria and the same provenance is reportedly also conserved in ex situ stands. At present A. marocana is conserved in a nature reserve in Morocco and seven ex situ stands have also been established for the species.

Climate change will have an impact on the current in situ conservation efforts but it is difficult to predict its effect on seed production, natural regeneration and recruitment of the firs as well as on the risks from insects and pathogens. The dynamic gene conservation units should be monitored in order to ensure that the populations are not seriously affected and that they retain their evolutionary potential and regenerate naturally. Management of the units should aim mainly at assisting natural regeneration and when this is not possible, the area should be artificially regenerated with local genetic material. Management of natural forests should also safeguard genetic resources by allowing natural selection to occur on regeneration in a variety of situations. Ex situ conservation efforts should focus on small populations that have an endangered status, insufficient seed production or unsuccessful pollination in their natural environment. This approach is useful especially in case of rare species or species with limited or scattered distribution as ex situ stands with a sufficient number of genotypes form new interbreeding populations that will produce seeds with a potentially high genetic diversity.

Mediterranean firs offers an opportunity to tackle the predicted forest decline in southern Europe as a result of climate change. A. nordmanniana has already been used for reforestation in Europe. Other Mediterranean firs (particularly A. cephalonica, A. bornmuelleriana and A. cilicica) are far less water demanding and could represent an alternative for silver fir (A. alba) in Europe. Fir provenance tests in the Mediterranean include material that has demonstrated good growth, adaptation to drought and late bud burst in spring. Such provenances of Mediterranean firs could be of interest for the European forestry.


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