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Larix decidua
European larch

The European larch (Larix decidua) is one of the few deciduous conifers. It is a large, long-lived and fast-growing tree, occurring mostly in mountainous regions in Central and Eastern Europe. The wood and resin of the European larch is valued for many diversified purposes. Due to its strong and durable timber, it is particularly suited for weatherproof constructions such as houses, fences, roofs and bridges, as well as furniture. Furthermore, tannin can be extracted from the bark and resin from the wood.

Larch is a typical pioneer tree, colonizing open land on disturbed soils, which makes it suitable for afforestation. However, as a light-demanding species, larch loses in competition with other trees. The optimal growth condition is on deep, well-structured and aerated soils, but the tree is highly adaptive and grows on a wide range of soils. Additionally, it can tolerate very cold temperatures during winter.

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Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use

Larix decidua - Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use for European larch

Publication Year: 2008
Author: Matras, J.; Pãques, L.E.

The lack of natural regeneration can be favoured at high elevation (e.g. over 1500 m in the Alps), with protection against farm animals, soil scraping and complementary plantation; at lower elevation the competition with shade-tolerant tree species should be controlled by thinning to favour larch growth, flowering, fructification and establishment of seedlings. Protection against game animals is often necessary.
At all elevations, crossing with other European larch populations and species should be avoided by prohibiting their introduction in close contact with native populations. Several national seed transfer regulations have defined provenance regions where only local populations of European larch are recommended for establishment but elsewhere there are no rules preventing the use of alien material except in natural parks or reserves.

European larch requires special management if it is to survive and flourish, especially in mixed forests. For example cutting, in which trees from the upper storey are left as shelter precludes natural regeneration of larch. Thus, the drawing up of general rules of silviculture (felling systems, silvicultural measures, etc.) is necessary to ensure the establishment of progenies from the natural populations of larch and maintenance of larch stands. Assistance to natural regeneration can be provided through weed control, opening of stand canopy, complementary planting and other management efforts.

Japanese and hybrid larches should not be grown near European larch forests that are considered as gene conservation units.

In situ conservation of genetic resources of European larch should be limited to mountain regions and areas where larch is the main forest species.

Ex situ conservation can be carried out through establishment of artificial gene conservation units. These might include plantations as part of breeding programmes, such as clonal archives, clone banks, seed orchards and field trials as well as specifically designed conservation plots. Populations selected for ex situ conservation should be free from genetic ‘pollution’ with other populations of European larch or with other larch taxa.

Larch seed can be stored for at least 30 years in genebanks. Pollen can also be stored ex situ. Cryopreservation of somatic embryogenic lines is another possibility for conservation of larch genetic resources conservation since most technical problems have been solved recently.


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