Quercus insignis, also known as the ‘tropical white oak’, is a large tropical tree that lives in several Central American countries and central, southeastern and southwestern Mexico. This species is found in tropical montane cloud forests. These habitats are important areas to focus conservation efforts due to their high concentrations of endemic species and very high biodiversity. Beyond this, tropical montane cloud forests also play an important role in the regulation of the water cycle. Astonishingly, 60% of Mexico’s tropical montane cloud forest tree species, including Quercus insignis, are listed as threatened by the IUCN Red List.
The native tropical montane cloud forest habitat of the tropical white oak tree is an ecosystem now under constant threat from deforestation for agricultural pasture and climate change. The forests suffer from over-exploitation and land use changes, with vast areas being converted to grazing pasture and coffee plantations – destroying the home of Quercus insignis. Despite its wide range across several countries, populations of this species are extremely fragmented and it is becoming increasingly rare, although precise information on the remaining population and trend is unavailable.
Saving this species will have several benefits to local communities. Amongst these will be an increased awareness of the importance of tropical montane cloud forest biodiversity and a successful, community-owned timber production programme that will provide sustainable livelihoods while also ensuring the conservation of endangered tree species.
To date, 730 saplings of Quercus insignis have been planted at twelve different sites. Currently, seedlings are being propagated from five different populations across Mexico.
Funding this project will enable the successful planting and establishment of 92,400 saplings of at least 20 tropical montane cloud forest species, including Quercus insignis, across a total area of 105 hectares after four years. Furthermore, activities will be carried out to recover and restore the ecological processes, ecosystem functions and lost productivity potential of degraded land.
An outreach programme will be carried out to increase the awareness in local communities of the importance of biodiversity in tropical montane cloud forests and to strengthen the management of biodiversity in community-owned timber production programmes. This will provide sustainable livelihoods to local communities and ensure the conservation of endangered species. This project will also ensure the conservation of endangered tree species through ongoing collaboration with scientifically informed partners.