Oaks (genus Quercus) are valuable keystone species found in a wide range of habitats around the world. Oaks perform critical ecosystem functions and provide food and habitat for myriad animals. However, many oak species are threatened with extinction, and oak-dominated ecosystems are declining worldwide. Since oaks are “exceptional species”, meaning their acorns cannot be seed banked through conventional methods, living collections are a critical conservation tool.
No one garden or arboretum can or should conserve all of the world’s threatened oak species, so a coordinated, global effort is needed. Led by the Morton Arboretum in collaboration with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and dozens of other partners, the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak (GCCO) was launched to prevent extinctions and ensure healthy oak species and populations for the future.
The goal of the GCCO is to mobilize a coordinated network of institutions and experts who work collaboratively to develop and implement a comprehensive conservation strategy to prevent the extinction of the world’s oak species. It was formed to deliver integrated conservation of oak species through practical ex situ (in cultivation) and in situ (in the wild) conservation and disseminate species recovery knowledge.
A core component of the GCCO is coordinating a strategic, scientifically informed network of living collections of threatened oak species across multiple sites, known as a “metacollection” as well as supporting and building capacity for organizations conserving threatened species in the wild, especially in global diversity hotspots. The Morton Arboretum is developing conservation groves, on-site, for two priority threatened oak species, Georgia Oak (Quercus georgiana) and Maple-leaved Oak (Quercus acerifolia), as part of the GCCO metacollections.