Habitat destruction, climate change, 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, this team began a study to determine conservation priorities for native oaks in the United States. 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, the project team 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. The final report, Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks, was published in 2019 and includes species-specific conservation recommendations that resulted from the Project.
Following the completion of the Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks project, the team selected another set of native U.S. trees to assess using similar methods, launching the Conservation Gap Analysis of U.S. Trees in Nine Priority Genera Project. The nine priority genera were selected due to particular economic importance, potential challenges with conventional seed banking methods, and/or threats from emerging pests and diseases: Carya (Hickories), Fagus (American Beech), Gymnocladus (Kentucky Coffeetree), Juglans (Walnuts), Pinus (Pines), Taxus (Yews), and selected Lauraceae (Laurels; including Lindera, Persea, and Sassafras). The final reports were published in 2021.