UCLA-led research reveals conservation lessons from California valley oak

November 25, 2019

New research led by UCLA examining whether trees being replanted in the wake of California wildfires will be able to survive a warming climate was published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.

The research focuses specifically on the California valley oak. One of the most surprising findings is that the valley oak is already poorly-suited to its current environment and actually thrives in cooler climates. Researchers grew saplings from seeds and identified which genetic variants would be more likely to thrive as temperatures rise. It is among the first studies to demonstrate the potential of using genomics to inform conservation strategies as the climate changes.

The valley oak, the largest oak in California, grows to over 100 feet tall and provides habitat and food for a variety of animals. (Photo Credit: Victoria Sork/UCLA)

The research was led by Victoria Sork, UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and dean of the Life Sciences Division in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. Luke Browne, a postdoctoral scholar at the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, is the study’s lead author.

The other authors of the study are:

Jessica W. Wright, Pacific Southwest Research Station, US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture
Sorel Fitz-Gibbon, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
Paul F. Gugger, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Read more at UCLA Newsroom.

Learn more about the related California Conservation Genomics Project led by UCLA.