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Conservation recommendations for trees under threat

Preserving wild populations of at-risk trees and increasing the conservation quality of botanical collections through effective conservation planning. 

Conservation recommendations for trees under threat
Left: Wild-collected Quercus havardii in propagation at The Morton Arboretum. Right: Native U.S. oak species richness by county.

Description/abstract

Habitat destruction, climate change, and pests and diseases have significantly altered natural systems throughout North America, greatly affecting one of our most ecologically and economically valuable resources: native tree populations. To combat these challenges, it is necessary to accurately identify and prioritize species, regions, and conservation activities.

In 2016, we began a study to determine conservation priorities for native U.S. oaks. Oaks (genus Quercus) were selected for their importance as keystone species and because they are “exceptional”—their seeds (acorns) cannot be preserved through conventional seed banking methods (i.e., storage at low temperature and low humidity). As such, oaks require living collections in botanical gardens and arboreta to preserve genetic diversity in a living gene bank. Using spatial analyses and information on current conservation efforts and the vulnerability of wild populations, we developed an understanding of conservation needs for at-risk native U.S. oaks. These results enable conservation practitioners to efficiently and effectively direct limited resources to the species and populations most in need of action. Our final report, including species-specific conservation recommendations, was published in 2019 and can be downloaded here: Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks.

Motivated by the success of our native U.S. oak analysis, we selected a second set of priority native U.S. trees to assess using similar methods. Results will be released by the end of 2019. Target genera include:

  • Hickory (genus Carya)
  • Beech (genus Fagus)
  • Coffeetree (genus Gymnocladus)
  • Walnut (genus Juglans)
  • Spicebush (genus Lindera)
  • Magnolia (genus Magnolia)
  • Bay (genus Persea)
  • Pine (genus Pinus)
  • Sassafras (genus Sassafras)
  • Yew (genus Taxus)

Funding sources

USDA Forest Service

Project status

Complete

Timeline

2016-2019