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Ulmus laevis
European white elm

The European white elm (Ulmus laevis) is a fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree mostly distributed across Central and Eastern Europe. The tree is of low economic value and, unlike other European elms, the timber is not appreciated. This is due to its cross-grained wood making it difficult to process. The quality of firewood is poor as well. However, because of its fast growth, ornamental value, and tolerance to soil compaction, de-icing salts and air pollution, white elm has long been used for amenity plantings in towns and on roadsides. The Dutch elm disease, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, however, has limited its use.

The typical habitat of the white elm is riparian deciduous forests, where it tolerates flooding for longer periods. Although it is typically found in moist sites, it can also grow on moderately dry, deep soils.

The European white elm is relatively rare and often confused with the other two elm species indigenous to Europe: U. minor and U. glabra.

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Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use

Ulmus laevis - Technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use for European white elm

Publication Year: 2003
Author: Collin, E.

Despite this pathological threat, the in situ conservation of white elm genetic resources is still possible through the establishment of a network of conservation stands. These stands should be selected across the natural distribution range, incorporating ecological variation, comprising at least 50 flowering trees in each. In countries where the distribution of this species in the wild is unknown, a preliminary inventory should be undertaken. Priority should be given to marginal populations and rare floodplain communities in danger of deforestation. Silvicultural management should stimulate and promote natural regeneration. However, planting of the original or local material may be required when regeneration is poor or the number of seed trees is insufficient.

Complementary ex situ conservation measures must be undertaken when no legal habitat protection measure can be taken, when populations are small and fragmented, or when the impact of DED is too strong. In emergency cases, ‘static’ conservation measures, such as clonal archives and cryopreservation of seed lots can be applied. However, ‘dynamic’ ex situ conservation units, such as conservation seed orchards (in artificial conditions) or pseudo in situ conservation units (plantations in original habitat), which brings together diverse material from the same eco-region and enhances genetic exchange, are highly recommended. White elms can easily be propagated by cuttings, and field clonal archives can be maintained as low hedges (1.5 – 2 m), which are less attractive to the vectors of DED.

A European core collection of elm clones has already been established with material from the nine countries participating in the EU RESGEN project. It is important that this collection is complemented with material originating from all the relevant regions of Europe.



Genetic conservation of European elms

This leaflets briefly describes how to conserve genetic diversity of European elms.  


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