Kick-off Meeting for the U.S. Region of the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak

  • Region

  • Topic

    Tree Conservation
  • Type

  • Source


The Morton Arboretum and BGCI hosted a very productive kick-off meeting for the U.S. Region of the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak (GCCO), a coordinated and collaborative network working to prevent the extinction of the world’s oak species. Over 60 people from across the U.S. (and five other countries) attended the two-day virtual conference on May 28th and 29th, 2020. Invited speakers provided important context for the state of oak conservation in the U.S., and sub-regional group discussions sparked many ideas for new research and conservation projects.

On the first day, attendees heard from Dan Crowley (BGCI) who gave an introduction to the Global Conservation Consortia and the role BGCI plays in their coordination. Emily Beckman (The Morton Arboretum) gave a summary of the results of the Conservation Gap Analysis of Native U.S. Oaks, and a brief update on oak ex situ accessions. Patrick Griffith (Montgomery Botanical Center) presented on the results of a series of recent IMLS projects (Institute of Museum and Library Services: MG-30-16-0085-16, MA-05-12-0336-12, MA-30-14-0123-14) that highlight the importance of coordinating living collections across institutions to capture more genetic diversity. Abby Meyer (BGCI-US) provided an update on an ongoing IMLS project (MG-60-19-0064-19), which aims to expand BGCI’s PlantSearch database of plants in cultivation to accommodate accessions-level data. Finally, Matt Lobdell (The Morton Arboretum) talked about the history and progress of the Plant Collections Network (PCN) Quercus multisite collection, which recognizes standards of excellence in living collections curation.

On the second day, Sean Hoban (The Morton Arboretum) presented new findings on how to efficiently maximize genetic diversity captured in coordinated ex situ collections of threatened trees, emphasizing the importance of balancing tradeoffs between capturing more genetic or ecological diversity and more threatened taxa (IMLS award MA-30-18-0273-18). Mark Coggeshall (University of Missouri) presented ideas from decades of work in the forestry sector on how to use and manage genetic diversity in collections to develop strategic research, breeding, and reintroduction plans. Adam Black presented on in situ conservation challenges for oaks, including hybridization, morphological plasticity, and species complexes, encouraging the consortium to commit the time, effort, and technology to address these challenges. Finally, Naomi Fraga (California Botanical Garden) presented on how important it is to understand, celebrate, and communicate the plant diversity in our local communities and to engage others in participating in conserving oaks in their native habitats.

Attendees then joined smaller breakout discussions based on their sub-region within the U.S., focusing on the areas of the country with the highest concentration of oaks of concern. On-the-ground research, conservation, and collecting projects were brainstormed, efforts were coordinated, new target partners were identified, and potential funding sources were discussed. Several attendees committed to being Species Champion for many of the oaks of concern in the U.S. Finally, a 5-year draft work plan for the U.S. Region was discussed and generally agreed upon by attendees.

Since the meeting, a survey was sent out to attendees to collect feedback on the meeting format, future communication plans, and creating working groups that focus on different areas of oak conservation (e.g. collecting trips, conservation genetics, etc.). The results of the survey show that the majority were pleased with the meeting format and would attend again. There was great interest in continuing the progress made at the meeting by having more conversations through email and video calls, establishing and leading working groups, and sharing expertise with partners in other global regions, especially oak diversity hotspots like Mexico and Southeast Asia.

If you are interested in learning more about the GCCO, please contact Amy Byrne.

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