Quercus Conservation Genetics and Genomics: Past, Present, and Future
journal contributionposted on 04.05.2022, 19:28 by Janet R Backs, Mary AshleyMary Ashley
Quercus species (oaks) have been an integral part of the landscape in the northern hemisphere for millions of years. Their ability to adapt and spread across different environments and their contributions to many ecosystem services is well documented. Human activity has placed many oak species in peril by eliminating or adversely modifying habitats through exploitative land usage and by practices that have exacerbated climate change. The goal of this review is to compile a list of oak species of conservation concern, evaluate the genetic data that is available for these species, and to highlight the gaps that exist. We compiled a list of 124 Oaks of Concern based on the Red List of Oaks 2020 and the Conservation Gap Analysis for Native U.S. Oaks and their evaluations of each species. Of these, 57% have been the subject of some genetic analysis, but for most threatened species (72%), the only genetic analysis was done as part of a phylogenetic study. While nearly half (49%) of published genetic studies involved population genetic analysis, only 16 species of concern (13%) have been the subject of these studies. This is a critical gap considering that analysis of intraspecific genetic variability and genetic structure are essential for designing conservation management strategies. We review the published population genetic studies to highlight their application to conservation. Finally, we discuss future directions in Quercus conservation genetics and genomics.