The Global Conservation Consortium for Oak (GCCO), San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), the Ensenada Scientific Research and Higher Education Center (CICESE) and the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), successfully hosted a workshop in Baja California, Mexico, September 25-27, 2023. In this workshop, participants had the opportunity to share tools and information about oak conservation and research, network and strengthen collaborations between U.S. and Mexican partners, learn how to become a species steward (a role within the GCCO) and plan collaborative conservation projects. Participants also learned more about the Mesoamerican Gap Analysis, and how they can participate in co-authoring species profiles for the seven target taxa that occur in Baja California. The oak species that were discussed at the workshop are the priority threatened oaks distributed throughout southern California, U.S. into Baja California, Mexico. Given the shared range of numerous threatened oaks, we are working to forge collaborations among partners in the U.S. and Mexico to implement conservation and research activities to prevent the extinction of these critically endangered oaks.
We also discussed culturally important oak species that are valued by indigenous communities for their acorns and other uses to learn more and see how we can work together to ensure populations of these species are safe and thriving into the future. Therefore, the workshop participants took a field trip to San Antonio Necua, a Kumiai community to learn more about the reserve, the species of oak trees they have on site, and how they use the acorns from the oak trees for cultural uses. Collaborations with the community and the GCCO were identified, such as supporting their oak propagation and planting efforts in the future. Also, Maricela and her colleagues trained several of the women community members on how to propagate, grow, and care for oak seedlings, as the community is building out an oak nursery on site to grow Q. agrifolia and other oak species to share with community members and plant out on their land for restoration and cultural purposes.
On the morning of Monday, September 25th, we arrived at The Autonomous University of Baja California, Ensenada. Amy and Maricela welcomed the workshop participants, and gave an overview of the schedule. We had two presentations that morning. The first was from Dr. Antonio Gonzalez on Genetic and functional variation of Q. brandegeei. The second was from the team at the San Diego Botanic Garden and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on ex situ conservation efforts of Q. cedrosensis and Q. dumosa. They presented on their successful efforts in propagating Q. cedrosensis through air layering, which there was a good discussion on.
Kate, Amy, and Christy Powell then gave a short introduction to the Mesoamerican gap analysis and species action plan, including an overview of the species profiles. Kate was able to meet with all six of the species profile co-authors for the Baja California species (Daniel Pérez, Hiram Rivera Huerta, Sula Vanderplank, Oscar Soto, Luciano Sabás, and Luciana Luna). We did a joint activity between the gap analysis and action plan where participants were asked to break up into small groups and for each species, record: 1) the threats facing the species, 2) current conservation actions underway, and 3) most urgent conservation actions needed. Participants also had an opportunity to review distribution maps. There were a few small changes to the distribution of Quercus cedrosensis and Q. devia. Oscar Sotto also looked at each of the maps, which is very valuable since he is an expert on Baja California oak distribution. Several workshop participants asked why certain culturally important oaks were not part of the gap analysis, specifically Q. peninsularis, Q. agrifolia, and Q. kelloggii. Kate agreed that it is important to include these species, and she will work on making distribution maps. It may be useful to include a special section on culturally significant species in the gap analysis, and this is something that warrants further discussion.
We also had a presentation by Dr. Jose Delgadillo (Herbario UABC) on the mediterranean ecosystem of oaks in Baja California. We ended the day with a poster session that included posters from the GCCO and Tony Gurnoe. Following the workshop, Amy, Kate and Maricela went out to dinner with many of the workshop participants where we furthered our discussion.
Workshop participant group photo
On Tuesday, September 29th Amy and Maricela again welcomed the group and set the schedule for the day. There were three presentations on Day 2. First, Dr. José Luciano Sabás Rosales gave a good overview of the oak species in Baja California, their identification, and their distribution. Then, Dr. Sula Vanderplank presented on Baja California cross-border rare plants and two oak species of concern. Following her presentation, there was a good discussion on the need for a botanic garden in Baja California. Finally, we heard from Oscar Javier Soto Arellano (INEGI), who presented detailed maps of Baja California oak species. We discussed the importance of having good databases and sharing these among researchers. Kate mentioned that she will share the gap analysis dataset once complete and he welcomes additional occurrence data to keep the dataset up-to-date even after analysis is complete. We continued with the threat/conservation activity from Day 1, and discussed each species as a group. Going into the workshop, we did not have a co-author assigned for the Q. engelmannii species profile. Following Kate’s presentation, Lluvia Flores Renteria of San Diego State University agreed to co-author Q. engelmannii, as well as Q. agrifolia. Kate will reach out to her following the workshop.
Maricela held a successful propagation workshop, which resulted in 12 new trained species stewards. After the propagation workshop, we had dinner with workshop participants as well as Kumiai community members. After dinner, Kate, Maricela and Dr. José Delgadillo (Herbario UABC) met to discuss his occurrence data. He shared the dataset that he contributes to (bajaflora.org). This data all goes into the Red herbarium database, so Kate has it as part of the gap analysis.
Propagation training workshop
On Wednesday, September 27th, we took a field trip to the tribal lands of the San Antonio Necua Kumiai community. On our way, we stopped at two sites. At the first stop, we were able to see Q. dumosa, a threatened oak that occurs only in chaparral habitat along the coast of Baja California, Mexico, and Southern California in the United States. One of the participants of the workshop, Oscar Soto of INEGI, is an expert in Baja California oak species identification and distribution, and he discussed how to positively identify this species. At our next stop, we found Q. engelmannii, another threatened species that has very few occurrences in Baja California, as well as Q. agrifolia, a species of cultural significance. When we arrived for our day with the Kumiai people, we were greeted by Paula and Raquel, two women in the Kumiai tribe. Raquel took us to see the nursery they are developing on their property. The community is creating a nursery for reforestation of local plants as well as sale for extra income. The jobs that are created from building the nursery are very important to the community, as many members need to leave to get jobs. They are hoping that the nursery will act as a source of income in order to keep the members of their community together. The nursery right now is in the very early stages (currently only growing Salvia), but presents a great opportunity for the GCCO to work with them to grow threatened and culturally significant oaks for reforestation. Paula then took us on a guided hike, where we saw many large Q. agrifolia. They have tree labels on several of their woody plants, and this may be an opportunity for ArbNet. After the hike, Paula gave a demonstration on how they use the acorns to make atole, and the significance of the acorns. At lunch, we were able to try the atole. We finished the day with Maricela giving a quick propagation workshop to those who still wished to participate.
Sinaw Kuatay, San Antonio Necua community; showing the process of making atole