European black pine (Pinus nigra) is a fast-growing conifer with a wide but scattered distribution across Europe and Asia Minor, mainly found in mountain areas. It has also been introduced, and now grows naturally, in the United States. It is one of the most economically important native conifers in southern Europe. The wood is durable, rich in resin and easy to process, which makes it suitable for indoor flooring, general construction and furniture. Due to its ability to tolerate pollution, as well as its interesting visual form, the tree is additionally used as an ornamental in urban and industrial contexts. Other uses include Christmas trees, fuelwood and poles.
Black pine is a light-demanding species and is shade-intolerant, but resistant to wind and drought. It is effective for controlling soil erosion and landslides and is widely used for reforestation. There are a wide range of subspecies of the black pine, each with specific preferred habitat conditions in terms of soil and climate.
Pinus nigra - Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use for European black pinePublication Year: 2003
Because black pine of different origins has been extensively planted, it is now important to identify authochthonous populations. This undertaking should be carried out at the international level. In each country, an inventory should be made to define the geographical distribution of the species, its conservation status, threats and potential uses. Breeding activities provide valuable information by defining potential plantation, seed collection and transfer zones. In situ conservation activities should be encouraged separately as seed stands and gene conservation forests. Those do not serve the same goal and should not always be identical, especially to make the conservation of marginal populations possible. An international in situ network of 100–120 stands would seem appropriate to represent the natural ecological and genetic variability of black pines.
As intraspecific hybridization is easy among black pines, exotic or improved black pines should not be planted in the vicinity of autochthonous and naturalized stands. This is particularly true for localized and fragmented sub-species such as P.n. laricio, and is of extreme importance for subspecies that are threatened, such as P.n. salzmanii in France and P.n. mauretanica in North Africa. For these subspecies and other varieties of rare occurrence, ex situ conservation is appropriate and urgent. As a step in that direction, in 1999 a gene conservation forest was selected in Turkey for the rare P. nigra var. pyramidalis.
Information on the provenance and progeny trials established throughout Europe should be entered in a database. This network of experimental sites could be used for ex situ conservation of black pine. Marginal areas might need to be further sampled to strengthen this network and possibly planted as ex situ seed orchards to re-install depleted resources.
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