Common Name: Acer leipoense (No known common name)
Scientific Name: Acer leipoense
Categories: Cultural importance, Cultivation trials;
One of several Chinese maples, Acer leipoense was until recently thought to be teetering on the brink of extinction, with no plants found at all at the original site of its population. However, in 2008, the work of the Global Tree Campaign, in collaboration with Beijjing Institute of Botany, revealed two previously unknown populations in Sichuan. Urgent action is now under way to conserve the species, by collecting seed and establishing ex situ conservation collections in botanic gardens.
Why is this species important?
Since this species was originally discovered in 1968, very little research has been conducted about its ethnobotanical importance. Therefore, additional research is needed to discover the role of this tree within its surrounding ecosystem and also its potential role in the human world. Future research may reveal that this species is of importance for medicine or other beneficial use. If it is lost then it would represent the continuing trend of species extinction, leading to further reduction in biodiversity at both a local and global scale.
Where is it found?
This species was originally thought only to found in the Dafengding Nature Reserve in Meigu County, Liangshan Yi in China, but has not been recorded there recently. However, surveys undertaken in 2008 have revealed two new populations: one of approx 500 individuals in south-west Sichuan and another in Heizhugou National Forest Park in Ebian Valley, growing in mixed montane forest at an altitude of 2,000-2,700m. Associated species include Davidia involucrata (Dove Tree) and Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree).
How do people use it?
The wood is thought to be used traditionally for making musical instruments. However, this needs confirmation with the local communities to be certain.
Why is it threatened?
This species is threatened owing to the limited number of individuals that remain in the wild. The small numbers remaining increase the vulnerability of these wild populations. The relative lack of genetic diversity among small numbers of individuals increases the species susceptibility to disease. The spread of the species over relatively few sites also increases vulnerability to habitat destruction or unregulated harvesting of timber, especially where the tree grows outside protected areas.
What conservation action is needed?
In the future, Dafengding Nature Reserve may be joined with neighbouring protected areas with the Panda as a flagship species. It was feared that this species was nearing extinction until recently. However, surveys by the Institute of Botany at CAS, Beijing revealed a new population of approximately 500 individuals in Sichuan, from which seeds have been collected. There are currently no known records of this species in ex-situ collections, so establishing cultivated populations is a priority.
Many thanks to BGCI for writing this profile.
Red List of Maples (Global Trees Campaign, 2009)
Back to Tree Profiles