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OakQuest - Oregon White Oak

Photo of an Oregon white oak at sunset

Oak savannas and prairies once covered about 1.8 million acres, or about half of the Willamette Valley. Today, about 47,000 acres remain, a 97% decrease. Mapping the remaining stands of oak is a top priority in the effort to strengthen the sustainability of this species.

  • Why is Oregon white oak an important species?

    Oregon white oak is one of only four deciduous oaks native to the West Coast. Oaks provide biological richness in the Willamette Valley by increasing the diversity of native insect populations, offering nest and den sites for wildlife, providing microhabitat for mosses and lichens, and also food for many species of wildlife.

    Oregon white oak habitats are identified as crucial and at-risk but Oregon currently lacks high quality oak distribution maps, particularly within the north Willamette Valley. This hinders local conservation efforts and leaves a critical data gap in one of the most rapidly developing areas within the ecosystem’s range from northern California to southwestern British Columbia.

    Who is interested in mapping?

    Mapping the region’s oak is one of Metro’s highest natural resource priorities as they own multiple oak-rich natural areas.  It is also important to map outside of Metro’s areas to encourage oak habitat conservation and assess connectivity across oak patches under different ownership.

    Oak mapping is also a priority for many other regional partners including the Intertwine Alliance, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, various Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, among others.

    How is the USFWS surrogate species approach helping?

    Our initial support of the OakQuest project under the Surrogate Species program consisted of creating the initial remote sensing oak distribution model, field-testing the model, and assessing it for accuracy.

    A citizen science effort, “OakQuest,” was established to collect field observations to test and refine a Metro-funded remote sensing oak distribution model. Two college-age youths from the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) were employed to help lead the effort. More than eighty citizen scientists got involved and helped map oaks using a smartphone field mapping application.

    Oak Work in 2015

    Another citizen science project will do mapping which will be followed by professional field surveys.

    This year, three college-age Native youth through the PSU Indigenous Nations Studies Program will be hired as team leaders to assist with the volunteer oak mapping effort and with the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) summer youth environmental camps, and more.

    Workshops on nature-scaping with oaks (“oak-scaping”) for urban and suburban landowners in oak-rich neighborhoods will begin in late 2015.

    A series of guided nature walks and evening talks focused on native oak-prairie ecology and conservation are planned for fall 2015.

    View a map of the OakQuest Project Area

    The map represents the OakQuest project area (orange hatching) showing the pilot ‘Willamette Corridor’ 2015-2016 landowner workshop series focal area (solid blue outline), and other potential future focal areas (dashed blue outlines). The current OakQuest project includes the portions of the Portland metropolitan region with the best available remote sensing data.

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