Protect Our Oaks

Understanding and forecasting causes and consequences. Management for future climates

Work Package Three

Impacts of oak decline on biodiversity and ecosystem function/services and mitigation options

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© Ruth Mitchell

Summary

Work package three is assessing the impact of a decline in oak on biodiversity and ecosystem function and suggesting management adaptations that would allow the continued survival of oak associated biodiversity.

We will produce the following:

  1. A database of all the known oak associated species: OakEcol. The database will provide information on the level of association with oak (e.g. only uses oak or uses a range of tree species), how the species uses oak (for feeding/breeding etc) and the conservation status of the species
  2. Information on if the oak associated species identified in 1) above will use a range of other tree species and the suitability of these tree species to replace oak. This information will be included within the OakEcol database
  3. Information on the ecosystem functions and services provided by oak and how they differ from those provided by other tree species
  4. Case studies for about 30 oak woodland sites that are managed for their biodiversity. The case studies will illustrate how management could change within these woodland to help reduce the impact of a decline in oak on the oak associated biodiversity
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© Ruth Mitchell

Similar work to this has already been done for Ash where we assessed the potential ecological impact of ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus).

For further details see these two articles from

Background

Acute oak decline will not only impact on the oak trees but also on the species that use oak trees and on the functioning of the woods in which the trees grow. Not all tree species are equal. Different species of tree will support different species of mosses, lichens, fungi, invertebrates, birds and mammals, so called associated-species. Some associated-species will only occur on particular tree species. For example recent work has shown that that are 45 species that are only found on ash trees, thus if ash trees decline populations of these species will also decline or even go locally extinct. Oak has long been known to support a wide number of associated species but the level of association (obligate, highly, partial) is unknown nor is there a complete list of all the species that use oak. Loss of oak from our woodland will also impact on ecosystem functions such as decomposition and ecosystem service provision such as carbon storage and recreation. Information on associated species and the functioning of oak is required if we are to understand and then to mitigate against these wider environmental impacts of acute oak decline.

Further details about the work.

The team

Dr Ruth Mitchell from the James Hutton Institute is leading this work package.

Different experts are responsible for dealing with different taxa: Dr Andy Taylor (James Hutton Institute) leads on Fungi, Dr Jenni Stockan (James Hutton Institute) and Dr Nick Littlewood (Independent) lead on invertebrates, Dr Paul Bellamy (RSPB) leads on birds, Dr Glenn Iason and Dr Scott Newey (James Hutton Institute) lead on mammals, Dr Chris Ellis (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) leads on lichens and Mr Nick Hodget (independent) leads on mosses.

The team also includes experts on woodland ecology Mr Richard Hewison and Prof Alison Hester (James Hutton Institute) and woodland management Ms Alice Broome and Dr Duncan Ray (Forest Research).

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