Protect Our Oaks

Understanding and forecasting causes and consequences. Management for future climates

Work Package Three: Objectives

3.1: Identification of the biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services supported by oak

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© Ruth Mitchell

Biodiversity supported by oak

Oak is known to host a wide diversity of species but there is currently no single comprehensive list. Using existing databases and detailed literature searches, we will collate information on which species use oak, their level of association with oak (e.g. obligate, partial, cosmopolitan), part of tree used and conservation status (e.g. red data book). Compilation of these data will allow an objective assessment of species most at risk from oak decline.

Ecological functions and services provided by oak

Oak provides a range of ecological functions and services in addition to supporting biodiversity. We will collate existing data via a comprehensive literature review on the ecological functioning of oak, including successional stage, light penetration, carbon storage, litter decomposition, nutrient cycling, and compare this to other species. Regional amounts of ecosystem services provided by oak for water quality, recreation and carbon sequestration using existing indicators. WP4 will assess the cultural ecosystem services provided by oak.

3.2: Assessment of alternative tree species for mitigation

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© Ruth Mitchell

Adaptation management (WP2) includes the use of alternative tree species to replace oak. WP 2 will identify alternative tree species that may either: a) naturally replace oak; or b) be planted to replace oak. Here, we assess the suitability of these alternative trees to mitigate the ecological impacts of a decline in oak according to the biodiversity they support and the ecosystem functions and services they provide. The results will be validate using arboreta across the UK where direct comparisons can be made between different tree species.

3.3: Management options

We will develop mitigation plans with woodland managers to offset the ecological impact (loss of species and ecosystem function/service) of a decline in oak. We will identity the oak-associated species present at the site using the NBN, site data and data from Objective 3.1. Using data from Objective 3.2 and standard silvicultural methods we will advise on methods to increase the abundance of suitable alternative tree species to offset the biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services impacts of the decline in oak. The work will be done at 30 sites and the results will used to produce case studies similar to those already developed for ash which will enable woodland managers to conduct similar assessments for other sites.