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Conservation of Zelkova abelicea in Crete (2019-2021)

On November 19, despite the COVID-19 second epidemic wave, partners of the Zelkova abelicea project, funded by the Franklinia Fondation (Switzerland), met by videoconference to discuss the progress of current and future activities.

The primary aim of this project is to enable, enhance and promote the long-term conservation of Zelkova abelicea; a relict, threatened and endangered endemic tree species of Crete (Greece) by coupling in situ and ex situ conservation actions with communication and outreach activities and other collaborative activities.

The species is found in open mountain forest communities between 800 and 1,800 m a.s.l in all five main mountain massifs of Crete in the Lefka Ori, Psiloritis, Kedros, Dikti and Thripti. All populations of Z. abelicea are significantly threatened by the presence of numerous caprine and ovine flocks responsible for over-browsing the plants, trampling and eating young seedlings and generally deteriorating the habitat in which the species grows. Other threats also include drought, fire, climate change, soil erosion, lack of public awareness on the values of the species and the illegal cutting of young trees and branches for making "katsounes", the traditional Cretan walking sticks. Given the level of threat to the various populations, Z. abelicea has been included as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Kozlowski et al. 2012) and is protected by the Greek legislation (Presidential Decree 67/1981), the Bern Convention (Appendix I) and is also included in Appendices II and IV of the European Habitats Directive (92/43).

The partners reviewed the progress of activities implemented since the start of the project and planned next year activities.

To find out more about the Zelkova abelicea project: http://abelitsia.gr/el/