Biodiversity & Conservation

, 15:3131 | Cite as

Conservation and Utilisation of Abies guatemalensis Rehder (Pinaceae) – An Endangered Endemic Conifer in Central America

  • Uffe Strandby Andersen
  • José Pablo Prado Córdova
  • Marten Sørensen
  • Johannes KollmannEmail author


This is the first review on taxonomy, morphology, ecology, conservation and utilisation of Abies guatemalensis, an endangered endemic conifer in Central America. The species became recently split up in seven varieties with a distinct geographic pattern. A number of morphological traits separate the species from the co-occurring A. hickelii and A. religiosa. The species is used for charcoal production, as valuable timber and (more recently) as highly priced greenery. However, utilisation is not sustainable and may lead to regional extinction within few decades. Protection of the species seems to be most efficient if based on community forest management. As a new conservation tool we suggest establishment of Christmas tree and greenery plantations which could generate significant income for the local farmers. The existing knowledge on A. guatemalensis should be used to steer utilisation, to generate livelihood improvements for the local Maya communities, and to optimise regional and national conservation efforts. Conservation of the species is urgent because it occurs in endangered highland forests which provide significant ecosystem services including erosion control and supply of drinking water. Inconsistencies in description of the species and gaps in knowledge are highlighted and future research directions suggested.


Christmas trees Community forest management Fragmentation Greenery Guatemala Maya Montane conifer forests Natural regeneration Taxonomy 


  1. Aguirre-Planter E., Furnier G.R. and Eguiarte L.E. (2000). Low levels of genetic variation within and high levels of genetic differentiation among populations of species of Abies from Southern Mexico and Guatemala. American Journal of Botany 87: 362–371PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anléu L.V. (1998). La Flora Silvestre de Guatemala. Editorial Universitaria, Universidad de San Carlos de GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold J.E.M. (1991). Community Forestry: Ten Years in Review. Community Forestry Note 7. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  4. Arnold J.E.M. (1998). Managing Forests as Common Property. FAO Forestry Paper 136. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  5. Berkes F. and Folke C. (2000). Linking social and ecological systems for resilience and sustainability. In: Berkes, F. and Folke, C. (eds) Linking Social and Ecological Systems. Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience, pp 1–25. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Bromley D.W. (1992). Making the Commons Work: Theory, Practiceand Policy. Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  7. Brosnan G. 2002. Christmas poachers kill off rare Guatemalan fir. Reuters News ServiceGuatemala: December 27, 2002, Available from several Internet sites e.g. http://www. planetark. org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/19210/story.htm; wire-stories/2002/12/12312002/reu_49277.asp; lf/2002-12-25/99111.html; Downloaded 27 February 2003.Google Scholar
  8. Cabrera Gaillard C. (1996). Síntesis histórica de la deforestación en Guatemala. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  9. CAMCORE. (1985). CAMCORE, North Carolina State University, USAGoogle Scholar
  10. Cardenal L., López E., Albacete C. and Sánchez G. (1997). Los Bosques de Totonicapán. Fundación Paz Verde; Ediciones Don Quijote, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  11. Cardenal Sevilla L. (1994). Informe de País Nicaragua: Diversidad y Prioridades. In: Vega, A. (eds) Corredores Conservacionistas en la Región Centroamericana: Memorias de una Conferencia Regional auspiciada por el Proyecto Paseo Pantera, pp 13–26. Tropical Research and Development Inc., FloridaGoogle Scholar
  12. CONAP 2004. Versión actualizada del Sistema Guatemalteco de Áreas Protegidas. Agosto 2004.Google Scholar
  13. Debreczy Z. and Rácz I. (1995). New species and varieties of conifers from Mexico. Phytologia 78: 217–243Google Scholar
  14. de MacVean A.L.E. (2002). Abies guatemalensis Rehder. In: Vozzo, J.A. (eds) Tropical Tree Seed Manual, pp 241–243. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceGoogle Scholar
  15. Dinerstein E., Olson D., Graham D., Webster A., Primm S., Bookbinder M. and Ledec G. (1995). A Conservation Assessment of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean. World Wildlife Fund-US, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  16. Duro T., Monzón M.R., González G.R., Argueta M.J.C., García G.P., González O.R., Vásquez R.H., Barrera E., Valladares R., Barillas E. and J.M. (2002). Cartografía y análisis de la vulnerabilidad a la inseguridad alimentaria en Guatemala. Ministerio de Agricultura-PMA, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  17. Dvorak W.S. and Donahue J.K. (1992). CAMCORE Cooperative Research Review 1980–1992. College of Forest Resources. North Carolina State University, USAGoogle Scholar
  18. Edmunds D. and Wollenberg E. (2003). Local Forest Management – The Impacts of Devolution Policies. Earthscan Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Elías G.S. (1997). Autogestión comunitaria de recursos naturales. Estudio de caso en Totonicapán. FLACSO. Debate 37. Fondo de Cultura Editorial, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  20. Ellstrand N.C. and Elam D.R. (1993). Population genetic consequences of small population size: Implications for plant conservation. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 24: 217–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Endo M. (1994). CAMCORE – 12 years of contribution to reforestation in the Andean region of Colombia. Forest Ecology and Management 63: 219–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Enters T. and Anderson J. (1999). Rethinking the decentralisation and devolution of biodiversity conservation. Unasylva 50: 6–11Google Scholar
  23. FAO. (1986). Databook on Endangered Tree and Shrub Species and Provenances. FAO Forestry Paper 77. Food and Agriculture Organisation, RomeGoogle Scholar
  24. Farjon A. (1990).. Koeltz Scientific Books, KöigsteinGoogle Scholar
  25. Farjon A., Page C.N. and Schellevis N. (1993). A preliminary world list of threatened conifer taxa. Biodiversity and Conservation 2: 304–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischer M. and Matthies D. (1998). Effects of population size on performance in the rare plant Gentianella germanica. Journal of Ecology 86: 195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frankham R., Ballou J.D. and Briscoe D.A. (2002). Introduction to Conservation Genetics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Grünberg G. (2003). Tierras y territorios indígenas en Guatemala. Colección Dinámicas Agrarias VI. FLACSO-MINUGUA-CONTIERRA. Magna Terra Editores, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  29. Haack R.A. and Paiz-Schwartz G. (1997). Bark beetle (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) outbreak in pine forests of the Sierra de las Minas biosphere reserveGuatemala. Entomological News 108: 67–76Google Scholar
  30. Hunter M.L. (2002). Fundamentals of Conservation Biology. Blackwell Science, Malden, MassGoogle Scholar
  31. IDRI (International Dendrological Research Institute) 1994. Saving the habitat of Abies guatemalensis in Oaxaca. No. 6. September USA, pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  32. INAB 1999a. Diagnóstico de las poblaciones naturales de Pinabete (Abies guatemalensis R.) en Guatemala y estrategia para su conservació n. Co-ediciones técnicas, documento No. 11.Google Scholar
  33. INAB 1999b. Estudio de mercado – Arbol navideño de Pinabete (Abies guatemalensis). Guatemala.Google Scholar
  34. INAB 2004. Departamento de Informacion Forestal. Guatemala.Google Scholar
  35. Islebe G.A. (1995). Will Guatemala's Juniperus-Pinus forests survive. Environmental Conservation 20: 167–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Islebe G.A., Velazquez A. and Cleef A.M. (1995). High elevation coniferous vegetation of Guatemala – A phytosociological approach. Vegetatio 116: 7–23Google Scholar
  37. IUCN 2002. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. details.php? species=30713; downloaded 27 February 2003.Google Scholar
  38. Lamont B.B., Klinkhamer P.G.L. and Witkowski E.T.F. (1993). Population fragmentation may reduce fertility to zero in Banksia goodii – a demonstration of the Allee effect. Oecologia 94: 446–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leite E.J. (2002). State-of-knowledge on Myracrodruon urundeuva Fr. Allemão (Anacardiaceae) for genetic conservation in Brazil. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 5: 196–202Google Scholar
  40. Liu T.S. (1971). National Taiwan University, TaipeiGoogle Scholar
  41. López E., Granados P., Espinosa P., Elías A., Albacete C. and Navas O. (1999). Diagnóstico de las poblaciones naturales de pinabete (Abies guatemalensis R.) en Guatemala y estrategia para su conservación. Co-ediciones Técnicas. Documento No. 11. CONAP-INAB-USAID, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  42. Lundell C.L. (1940). Two new trees from the mountains of Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist 23: 175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Martínez M. (1948). Los Abies Mexicanos. Anales del Instituto de Biología 19: 11–104Google Scholar
  44. Moscoso C.F.E. (2002). Modelo cartográfico digital para el registroubicación y consulta de áreas apropiadas para el crecimiento y desarrollo de pinabete (Abies guatemalensis Rehder), en el departamento de Totonicapán, Guatemala. Agr. RNR. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  45. Oostermeijer J.G.B., Luijten S.H., Krenova Z.V. and den Nijs J.C.M. (1998). Relationship between population and habitat characteristics and reproduction of the rare Gentiana pneumonanthe L. Conservation Biology 12: 1042–1053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ostrom E. (1990). Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  47. Ostrom E. (1998). A behavioural approach to the rational choice theory of collective action. American Political Science Review 92: 1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ostrom E. 1999. Self-Governance and Forest Resources. CIFOR, Occasional Paper No. 20.Google Scholar
  49. Ouborg N.J. and Treuren R. (1995). Journal of Ecology 83: 369–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. (2004). Informe sobre desarrollo humano 2004. La libertad cultural en el mundo diverso de hoy. Mundi-Prensa Libros S.A, MéxicoGoogle Scholar
  51. Powell G., Palminteri S., Locklin C. and Schipper J. 2001. Central American pine-oak forests. ( full.html; downloaded 27 February 2003.Google Scholar
  52. Quintana-Ascencio P.F., Ramirez-Marcial N., Gonzalez-Espinosa M. and Martinez-Ico M. (2004). Sapling survival and growth of coniferous and broad-leaved trees in successional highland habitats in Mexico. Applied Vegetation Science 7: 81–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rehder A. (1939). The firs of Mexico and Guatemala. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 20: 281–287Google Scholar
  54. Rushforth K.D. (1989). Two new species of Abies (Pinaceae) from western Mexico. Notes from the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh 46: 101–109Google Scholar
  55. Silba J. 1986. An international census of the Coniferae. Phytologia memoir no. 8. Corvallis, OR.Google Scholar
  56. Silba J. (1997). Journal of the International Conifer Preservation Society 5: 45Google Scholar
  57. Silba J. (2000). Variation géographique et populations isole de les Gymnospermes rarissime. Journal of the International Conifer Preservation Society 7: 17–40Google Scholar
  58. Sjören-Gulve P. (2000). The Use of Population Viability Analyses in Conservation Planning. Munksgaard, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  59. Sørensen M., Døygaard S., Estrella J.E., Kvist L.P. and Nielsen P.E. (1997). Status of the South American tuberous legume Pachyrhizus tuberosus (Lam Spreng). Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 1581–1625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Standley P.C. and Steyermark J.A. (1958). Fieldiana: Botany 24: 37–40Google Scholar
  61. Standley P.C., Steyermark J.A. and Williams L.O. (1946–1977). Flora of Guatemala. Fieldiana, Botany 24: 1Google Scholar
  62. Tilman D., May R.M., Lehman C.L. and Novak M.A. (1994). Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371: 65–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tiú L., García H. P. and R. (2002). Los bosques comunales de Totonicapán: Historiasituación jurídica y derechos indígenas. Colección Dinámicas Agrarias IV. FLACSO-MINUGUA-CONTIERRA. Magna Terra Editores, GuatemalaGoogle Scholar
  64. URL 2004. Perfil ambiental de Guatemala. Informe sobre el estado del ambiente y bases para su evaluacíon sistemáticaGoogle Scholar
  65. USDA. (1974). Wood Handbook. Wood as an Engineering Material. U.S. Agriculture Handbook 72. Government Printing Office, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  66. USFWS 2003. FirGuatemalan (= pinabete). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species.; downloaded 24 September 2004.Google Scholar
  67. Veblen T.T. (1976). The urgent need for forest conservation in highland Guatemala. Biological Conservation 9: 141–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Vidaković M. (1991). Conifers: Morphology and Variation. Grafièki Zavod Hrvatske, ZagrebGoogle Scholar
  69. Villar Anleu L. (1994). Informe de País Guatemala: perfil general. In: Vega, A. (eds) Corredores conservacionistas en la Región Centroamericana: Memorias de una Conferencia Regional auspiciada por el Proyecto Paseo Pantera, pp 102–118. Tropical Research and Development Inc., FloridaGoogle Scholar
  70. Walter H., Harnickell E. and Mueller-Dombois D. (1975). Climate-diagram Maps of the Individual Continents and the Ecological Climatic Regions of the Earth. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  71. Young A., Boyle T. and Brown T. (1996). The population genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation in plants. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 11: 413–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Uffe Strandby Andersen
    • 1
  • José Pablo Prado Córdova
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marten Sørensen
    • 1
  • Johannes Kollmann
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of EcologyRoyal Veterinary and Agricultural UniversityFrederiksberg CDenmark
  2. 2.Faculty of AgronomyUniversity San Carlos of GuatemalaGuatemala

Personalised recommendations