Why Cedrus brevifolia - Genocedar

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Why Cedrus brevifolia

The Project
Why Cedrus brevifolia

Despite the lack of paleontological data for C. brevifolia, several studies have argued that the species has had a long history on the island of Cyprus. Theophrastus (371 - 287 BC) was the first to mention the existence of cedar in Cyprus (Hort 1980 - Theophrastus Book 5. 7.1 and 8); while analysis of plastid DNA sequences estimated the time of divergence between C. libani and C. brevifolia (molecular clock) at 7.83 ± 2.79 to 6.56 ± 1.20 million years ago (Qiao et al. 2007). Cyprus cedar is well-differentiated from other species of the genus based on morphological and ecophysiological traits, such as short needles and slow growth, resistance to aphids, and the highest tolerance to drought in all cedar species (Vidakovic 1991; Ladjal 2005). However, phylogenetic / phylogeographic studies have shown a strong genetic relationship between C. brevifolia and its widespread congener C. libani, especially with populations from Turkey (Qiao et al. 2007; Scaltsoyiannes 1999; Fady et al. 2000; Bou Dagher-Kharrat 2007). Despite the general argument that narrowly distributed or endemic species attain lower genetic diversity levels than their widespread congener species, C. brevifolia is a new example of a narrow endemic island species with high diversity levels (Bou Dagher-Kharrat et al. 2007; Eliades et al. 2011). Such results seem to suggest that the species did not experience severe bottleneck events or extensive genetic drift (Eliades et al. 2011). Besides, its population showed significant genetic differentiation, as a consequence of fragmentation of a previously uniform population (Eliades et al. 2011).

These conflicting outcomes could be the effect of C. brevifolia's adaptation to its natural habitat in Cyprus. In addition, the isolation and lack of long-distance gene flow from external sources, the long-term absence of human intervention (silviculture) and the clear morphological differentiation of C. brevifolia, but at the same time the lack of genetic differentiation from the congener C. libani; make C. brevifolia an interesting model for analysing adaption within its narrowly distributed area.

Besides, Cedrus brevifolia is an important narrow endemic tree of Cyprus flora. Its botanical and ecological importance has been recognized by the scientific community, which has classified it as:

  • vulnerable species in the Red list of the IUNC and the Red Data Book of the Flora of Cyprus

  • rare species in the European Red list of Threatened Plants and Animals (ECE).

Its habitat type is classified as a priority habitat type (9590*) by European Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC. In an effort to preserve its natural habitat, the wider area of its habitat was declared as a Natural Reserve, while the entire habitat is also considered for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.

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