The LIFE4FIR project

LIFE4FIR is a project co-financed with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union

The main purpose of the LIFE4FIR project (LIFE18_NAT_IT_000164 – Decisive in situ and ex situ conservation strategies to secure the critically endangered Sicilian fir, Abies nebrodensis) is to increase genetic diversity and improve the conservation status of the population of Abies nebrodensis, that is actually seriously endangered (the residual population is composed only by 30 adult specimens). This species is in fact subject to a dramatic genetic erosion and scarce natural regeneration.


The purpose of the LIFE4FIR project will be pursued by achieving the following specific objectives:

    1. supporting and protecting the remaining adult trees and the few young plants resulting from the natural regeneration of Abies nebrodensis directly in their natural habitat;
    2. restore the dynamic structure of the population through the implementation of a reforestation plan based on the use of selected seedlings. This implies the achievement of the following secondary objectives:
      • nursery production of healthy, vigorous, pure and outbred seedlings;
      • establishment in suitable sites of reforestation areas meant as re-diffusion cores of the species;
      • creation of a clonal orchard suitable for the production of improved seeds in the future;
    3. ex situ conservation through the implementation of a seedbank and a cryobank for long-term conservation of seeds, pollen, isolated embryos and embryogenic callus lines of Abies nebrodensis;
    4. clear identification of measures to support the activities even after the end of the project and to define a strategy for the future application of the LIFE4FIR methodology to other endangered conifers in Europe.

Actions and means involved

The LIFE4FIR project will put into practice an innovative, integrated and thorough strategy in the Madonie Park (Sicily, Italy) territory for the preservation of the highly endangered Abies nebrodensis (only 30 residual adult trees), based on increasing its genetic diversity and implementing a reforestation plan to restore a dynamic structure of the population.

The provided Project Actions are:

    1. Sustain and protection to the relic population (adult trees and natural regeneration) will be obtained through the control of biotic, abiotic and anthropic disturbances (pathogens and pests, localized erosion, grazing of wild herbivores and abandoned cattle and goats) by means of a system of fences (both traditional and electric), video surveillance, bioengineering, monitoring of vegetation processes and functions by UAV (drone), regular surveys of pathogens and pests, control of herbivores;
    2. Biodiversity of the progenies will be increased through evaluation of the genetic relatedness among the mature trees, using updated and effective molecular techniques; and the selection of pure and outbred seedlings through new controlled crosses between unrelated genotypes that will be verified by execution of paternity tests;
    3. Improvement of the growing conditions of seedlings in the nursery by adopting effective techniques to select viable seed, to obtain mycorrhizal seedlings, to control biotic and abiotic disturbances, so increasing vigour and fitness of saplings that will be used for reforestation. A new properly designed clonal orchard will be established to favour outbreeding between genotypes and to obtain improved and outbred seeds in the future;
    4. Replanting interventions in suitable areas of the Madonie Park, according to a reforestation plan. Using the improved seedlings raised in the nursery, replanting interventions will be carried out (4000 improved seedlings) in ten selected plots chosen as the most suited for reintroduction of Abies nebrodensis, so as to create re-diffusion cores.
    5. Ex situ conservation by the development of a highly-efficient propagation technique (somatic embryogenesis), as well as the implementation of a seedbank and a cryobank for the long-term conservation of seeds, pollen, isolated embryos and embryogenic callus lines of Abies nebrodensis.
    6. Activities for defining a replicability plan of LIFE4FIR results, and establishment of a network of stakeholders and definition of ways to sustain the activities after the end of the project.


Contact Roberto Danti, project manager of LIFE4FIR!