Oaks (the flowering plant genus Quercus) include some of America’s most ecologically and economically important trees. The approximately 255 oaks of the New World oak lineage dominate North American and Mexican woody plant biomass, biodiversity, ecology, and nutrient cycling. Despite the significant ecosystem services provided by oaks, the biodiversity of this genus is poorly understood. In this project, collaborators from The Morton Arboretum (IL), the University of Notre Dame (IN), Duke University (NC), University of Minnesota, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México undertook a comprehensive systematic study of the oaks of the New World. The project will integrate next-generation genomic (DNA) sequencing, plant physiology, and direct study of plants in the field and museum collections to gain insights into the oak tree of life and the basic question of how oak traits, distributions, and diversity evolve in response to changes in habitat and climate.
This project has been supported by NSF-DEB Award #1146488, 2012-2016, the Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science, and a Fulbright Award (2014).