AppearanceFully grown, Atlas cedar is a large coniferous evergreen tree, 30–35 m tall, with a trunk diameter of 1.5–2 m. It is very similar in all characters to the other varieties of Lebanon cedar; differences are hard to discern. The mean cone size tends to be somewhat smaller.
The "Cedrus atlantica" leaf length is similar that of "C. libani" subsp. "stenocoma", on average longer than "C. brevifolia" and shorter than "C. libani" subsp. "libani", but again with considerable overlap.
HabitatAtlas cedar forms forests on mountain sides at 1,370 to 2,200 m, often in pure forests, or mixed with Algerian fir - "Abies numidica", "Juniperus oxycedrus", holm oak - "Quercus ilex", and "Acer opalus". These forests can provide habitat for the endangered Barbary macaque, "Macaca sylvanus", a primate that had a prehistorically much wider distribution in northern Morocco and Algeria.
Currently Morocco has the highest total surface of Atlas cedar in the world, and it forms vast forests in the humid zones of the country, around the Middle-Atlas range, the oriental and Northern High-Atlas range and in the Western and Central Rif mountain range. The current total area is around 163,000 hectares, of which around 115,000 hectares are situated in the Middle-Atlas mountains. The species is in danger of human use, wood mafia and fires. Data that go back to 1927 show higher number of Atlas cedars in the Middle-Atlas mountains only. The Rif mountains had one of the largest cedar forests in the past, but forests nowadays are much smaller, 15% of the total cedar forests in Morocco. Recently massive reforestation campaigns have taken place in the region of Ifrane Province.
In Algeria, the Atlas cedar has been in massive decline. According to data from 1966 the species inhabited 23,000 hectares, forming forests around the djurdjura Mountains in Kabylie and Aures Mountains. However, it is expected that it currently inhabits fewer than 15,000 hectares owing to extensive fires and human use.
CulturalGeorge Harrison references the species in his song "Beware of Darkness."
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