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Populus nigra
European black poplar

The European black poplar (Populus nigra) is a large deciduous tree found throughout Europe, northern Africa and in central and west Asia. It is used as a parent pool for breeding programmes in several parts of the world. As a result, many poplar cultivars descend from it. The tree is renowned for its vegetative regeneration and its rapid growth, which makes it a suitable crop for bioenergy and for pulp and paper production. Owing to its environmental plasticity, it is used for soil protection and afforestation in polluted industrial zones.

Ecologically, the tree is important given the large number of insects and animals associated with or depending on it. The species also provides forforest ecosystem services, including soil stabilization and watershed protection.

The European black poplar is tolerant to high water levels and is a good pioneer tree, especially in riparian woodlands. Nevertheless, it is one of the most threatened tree species in Europe as a result of habitat degradation, demographic pressure and lack of genetic diversity.

Access the European database on poplar clones  [1]

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Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use

Populus nigra - Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use for black poplar

Publication Year: 2003
Author: Vanden Broeck, A.

As a general objective, the conservation of genetic resources should maintain the adaptation potential of species and populations. Static ex situ conservation is a widely applied strategy for short-term conservation to preserve genotypes in ex situ collections or genebanks. When the objective is long-term gene conservation and maximization of the adaptive potential of a species, dynamic in situ conservation is preferable. This can be achieved through in situ conservation of native stands (including restoration of stands), long-term breeding programmes or both. Successful in situ conservation of black poplar in Europe primarily depends on the location and protection of its natural habitats.

The conservation units should be distributed throughout the distribution range of the species, preferably including more than one conservation site per river system. A preliminary assessment of the genetic diversity among adult trees in the candidate populations is recommended to conserve a high amount of diversity and a low number of clonal duplicates. Particular attention must be paid to all practices that have an impact on flowering habit and the regeneration process, which determine the effective population size. Conditions for seed-set and seedling establishment should be optimized.

For restored populations, introgression can be limited by creating a “buffer zone” around the population consisting of local male trees. Active management and evaluation of the restored populations are highly recommended and should include replacement of poorly flowering individuals, corrective thinning, new additions to and from the genebanks, and removal of unsuitable individuals to avert the threat of introgression or poor adaptation.


Technical bullettin

In situ conservation of Populus nigra

Publication Year: 2001
Author: Lefèvre, F.; Barsoum, N.; Heinze, B.; Kajba, D.; Rotach, P.; de Vries, S.M.G.; Turok, J.

P. nigra is a typical pioneer tree species of the riparian forest ecosystem. Therefore, the in situ gene conservation strategies and methods developed for other forest tree species are not always suitable. In fact, successful in situ conservation strategies for black poplar need to consider the current status and management of existing populations as well as the physical dynamics of the natural habitat formed by the river. Furthermore, conservation relies heavily on the potential to restore entire floodplain ecosystems, as well as the development of appropriate strategies for the management of restored sites. These factors not only determine the objectives of designated in situ conservation units, but also the methods and costs of the approach that is ultimately adopted. 



Identification sheet for black poplar

This identification sheet was prepared by members of the EUFORGEN Populus nigra Network, in order to facilitate the simplest possible identification of the species from cultivated hybrids and possible introgressive forms. The morphological traits common to different species of the genus Populus are not referred to.

The drawings should be considered as having an indicative value in the field and can not represent strict taxonomic criteria. All illustrations were drawn by Mr Filip Coopman of the Institute for Forestry and Game Management in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. The original drawings were kindly provided as Belgium's contribution in kind to the Network.

This identification sheet is available in English  [2]French  [3]Italian  [4]German  [5]Dutch  [6] and Russian  [7]. Copies can be obtained from the EUFORGEN Secretariat.







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