Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Conserving rare oak species in the U.S.

Oak sampling
Wild-collected Quercus havardii in propagation at The Morton Arboretum, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Emily Beckman.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With support from the USDA Forest Service, The Morton Arboretum and Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S. have just published a comprehensive Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks. Results from the analysis provide natural resource land managers and botanical gardens with a roadmap for implementing the crucially important conservation actions necessary to protect rare U.S. oak species, including opportunities for cross-sector collaborations. These partnerships have proven to be the most efficient and effective way to conserve biodiversity, by utilizing the unique strengths and tools of a range of public and private organizations such as arboreta and botanic gardens, private companies, non-governmental organizations, governing bodies (city, county, state, national), and universities.

Oaks are critical to the health and function of forest and shrubland ecosystems in the United States, providing valuable habitat for pollinators and food for birds and mammals. However, many native oaks are threatened with extinction in the wild by such factors as climate change, fire suppression, urban development and pests/pathogens. Ongoing conservation efforts exist for some species, but with growing threats to the species long-term existence and lack of resources and time for management, prioritization and coordination of conservation actions is crucial. To facilitate these efforts, the publication provides a comprehensive survey of both the achievements and most urgent needs for in situ (in its native habitat) and ex situ (off-site) actions to conserve oak species in the U.S. The most common conservation needs include species occurrence surveys, population monitoring, research, wild germplasm collection and propagation and sustainable land management.

The final report presents a summary of these results, including patterns in threats and conservation efforts for the most at-risk species and recommendations for the most urgently needed conservation activities. Of the 91 native U.S. oak species, our study identified 28 as species of conservation concern. Each of these at-risk species is analyzed in a detailed species profile that includes specific recommendations for in situ and ex situ conservation actions. By providing actionable recommendations and a list of stakeholders currently engaged in conservation efforts for the 28 U.S. oak species of conservation concern, this report aims to catalyze efforts to preserve our native oaks for generations to come.