We are using DNA data to further understand the reproductive biology of an under-studied oak, Quercus havardii, which will help inform seed collection strategies and collection management.
We are working with a threatened, desert adapted oak found in the Western US, called shinnery oak (Q. havardii). This species is a very small tree or shrub which occurs in sand dune habitats. It provides habitat and food for several endangered animals, and its extensive roots stabilize the soil. It is such a unique species that the ecosystem it occurs in (and defines) is called the sand shinnery ecosystem. This unique species can spread underground via clonal propagation- this means that multiple, even hundreds, of aboveground stems could be one individual plant. There is very little existing knowledge about how large and far clones can spread, so we are using DNA markers to investigate clonal structure and distribution at different sites. We predict that some sites will have more clones (and thus less reproduction by seed) than others- perhaps related to the disturbance ecology or environmental stress of the sites. This information will help us understand the reproductive biology of this oak, which will help inform strategies for ex situ conservation.
The Morton Arboretum