Red listing the world’s oak species

In collaboration with the Global Trees Campaign, BGCI and the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group, The Morton Arboretum has launched a project to complete threat assessments for all of the world’s oak species for the IUCN Red List.

It is known that many oak species are under threat from habitat destruction, climate change, invasive pests and pathogens, and competition from invasive plants. However, to date less than half of the world’s oak species have been evaluated for the Red List. Given the great global economic, ecological, and cultural value of oaks, it is important to understand the threats they face.

The genus Quercus contains roughly 430 species of trees and shrubs distributed across the Northern Hemisphere from cool temperate to tropical regions. To complete the Red List assessments, the oak conservation team at The Morton Arboretum is gathering extensive data on oak distributions, threats, population trends, and human uses. The two centers of diversity for oaks are in Mexico/Central America and in China, so developing a network of experts on oaks in these regions is a key initiative of the oak red listing project.

Since 2015 The Morton Arboretum has published over 70 threat assessments for Quercus species and has trained almost 100 people in IUCN Red List methodology for the purpose of contributing to this and other Red List efforts.

The oak red listing project directly contributes to achieving Target 2 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, which calls for the completion of threat assessments for all known plant species by 2020. The IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group is responsible for developing the Global Tree Conservation Assessment – an up-to-date assessment of the threat status of the world’s trees, which the oak red listing project will contribute to.

For further information on the oak red listing project or to contribute data, please contact Dr. Murphy Westwood, Tree Conservation Specialist at The Morton Arboretum and Global Tree Conservation Officer for BGCI:


Young Quercus sichourensis (CR) growing in a dedicated conservation grove at Kunming Botanical Garden, Yunnan, China

Did you know?

The coast redwood is the tallest tree on Earth, growing to a staggering 115 metres high.