Nearly one-third of all oak species threatened with extinction, report says

  • Nearly one-third of all oak species (31%) are considered threatened with extinction, according to a new report.
  • Of all 430 species of oaks, the highest number of species under threat are found in China, Mexico, Vietnam, and the United States, respectively.
  • Globally, agriculture poses the biggest threat to oaks. Urban development, climate change, invasive species, plant diseases, and human disturbance have also strained oaks globally. And in Latin America, which has the highest number of endemic oak species, the use of oak for charcoal is a threat.
  • Many of the threats to oaks must be tackled with “transformative systemic change,” but individual actions such as monitoring the oaks in your area, donating to local conservation NGOs, spreading awareness, and switching to more efficient fuels and stoves that do not rely on charcoal could relieve some of the pressures on threatened species.


The priest class of the ancient European Celtic societies drew their name, the Druids, from the word for oak, revered as “the tree of life.” The Greek god Zeus and the Norse god Thor are both associated with the mighty oak. And today, under the oak-lined avenues of New Orleans, groups of Mardi Gras revelers dedicate their debauchery to the gnarled, wooded giants. But oaks, deeply rooted in mythos and prized for their strength, are now in peril.

Nearly one-third of all oak species (31%) are considered threatened with extinction, according to a new report,The Red List of Oaks 2020, compiled by The Morton Arboretum and the IUCN’s Global Tree Specialist Group. The report, which details the most current conservation status of all 430 species of oaks (Quercus), is the result of five years of research by more than a hundred researchers around the globe.

“[T]hey are found in nearly every ecosystem on Earth: from deserts to coastal shores and lowlands, from high mountain tops to river valleys, cloud forests, alluvial plains, prairie grasslands, and tropical jungles,” Béatrice Chassé, editor of International Oaks, writes in the introduction to the report. “And yet, in spite of their extraordinary evolutionary and ecological success that spans fifty-six million years, today many of them have dubious futures.”

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