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Plant Focus

Quercus peninsularis
A Red Oak (Section Lobatae) endemic to inland ranges of northern Baja California, Mexico

A Hopeful Future for Oaks of Vietnam

Dr. Ngoc Nguyen, professor at the University of Dalat, started his work in Fagaceae conservation and research nearly 20 years ago. Recognizing the significant species diversity of Fagaceae and the crucial role the species play in tropical forests of Vietnam were the main reasons Ngoc started his career in conservation and research. Using morphological and molecular analyses for classification and assessing the threats to species through field surveys, this work contributed to Ngoc’s study of genus Quercus in Vietnam. He then went on to take on more applied conservation projects in the field.

Dr. Ngoc Nguyen
Dr. Ngoc Nguyen

As a member of the International Oak Society (IOS) and Global Conservation Consortium for Oak (GCCO), Ngoc supports the assessment and evaluation of the conservation status of oak species for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Also, he was awarded a grant from Fondation Franklinia to lead a research project that focuses on the conservation of several endangered oak species in the Central Highlands of Vietnam: Quercus baolamensis, Q. bidoupensis, Q. mangdenensis (three species he collaborated in describing) and Q. blaoensis. Through his extensive career in working with oaks and other Fagcaceae genera in Southeast Asia, Ngoc recognizes and works to address the numerous threats and challenges these taxa face in the region.

Quercus bidoupensis seedlings
Quercus bidoupensis seedlings growing in a nursery at Dalat University

One of the biggest challenges in conserving oak species is the pressure of socioeconomic development. This has led to a large reduction in forest cover, subsequently resulting in the decline of oak populations. Also, he has observed the lack of attention given to oak conservation efforts, which poses numerous difficulties for those working in the oak conservation field, such as a lack of funding support. Finally, he describes the inconsistent fruiting of oaks and difficulties propagating the species as other challenges this group of species faces. Although there are a large number of threats and challenges that are greatly impacting the conservation status of oaks in Vietnam and globally, Ngoc and his collaborators remain hopeful. He states: “We hope to receive increased participation from conservationists and nature enthusiasts… Despite the many challenges involved in oak conservation, with passion and a willingness to take on these challenges, I believe we can achieve significant results.”

Dr. Ngoc Nguyen and his team collecting herbarium specimens of Quercus species in the field
Dr. Ngoc Nguyen and his team collecting herbarium specimens of Quercus species in the field

With hopes of continued interest and support from the IOS, GCCO and other networks/funders, Ngoc and his collaborators will continue to expand their oak conservation and research projects to ensure more vulnerable and endemic species of Vietnam are protected.

Photos © Ngoc Nguyen