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Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas: Exploring a Hidden Landscape of Transformation and Resilience. UC Press: Berkeley. p 223.2012.
Documenting Local Landscape Change: The Bay Area Historical Ecology Project. In The HISTORICAL ECOLOGY HANDBOOK: A Restorationist's Guide to Reference Ecosystems. . The HISTORICAL ECOLOGY HANDBOOK: A Restorationist's Guide to Reference Ecosystems. Island Press.2005.
Documenting Local Landscape Change: The Bay Area Historical Ecology Project. In The Historical Ecology Handbook: A Restorationist's Guide to Reference Ecosystems.. . The Historical Ecology Handbook: A Restorationist's Guide to Reference Ecosystems. Island Press: Washington D.C.2001.
Estuaries: Life on the edge. In Ecosystems of California. Ecosystems of California. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA. pp 359-388.2016.
Oak Landscapes in the Recent Past. In Oaks in the Urban Landscape: Selection, Care, and Preservation. . Oaks in the Urban Landscape: Selection, Care, and Preservation. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Richmond, CA.2011.
Building a regionally consistent base map for the Bay Area: The National Hydrography Data Set. Abstracts of the 5th Biannual State of the Estuary Conference – San Francisco Estuary: Achievements, trends and the future, pp 108.2001.
Building Ecological Resilience in Highly Modified Landscapes.2018. (4.93 MB)
Ecological resilience is a powerful heuristic for ecosystem management in the context of rapid environmental change. Significant efforts are underway to improve the resilience of biodiversity and ecological function to extreme events and directional change across all types of landscapes, from intact natural systems to highly modified landscapes such as cities and agricultural regions. However, identifying management strategies likely to promote ecological resilience remains a challenge. In this article, we present seven core dimensions to guide long-term and large-scale resilience planning in highly modified landscapes, with the objective of providing a structure and shared vocabulary for recognizing opportunities and actions likely to increase resilience across the whole landscape. We illustrate application of our approach to landscape-scale ecosystem management through case studies from two highly modified California landscapes, Silicon Valley and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. We propose that resilience-based management is best implemented at large spatial scales and through collaborative, cross-sector partnerships.
Journal Article (Peer-Reviewed)
The biological deserts fallacy: Cities in their landscapes contribute more than we think to regional biodiversity. BioScience 71 (2) . SFEI Contribution No. 1031.2021. (781.56 KB)
Cities are both embedded within and ecologically linked to their surrounding landscapes. Although urbanization poses a substantial threat to biodiversity, cities also support many species, some of which have larger populations, faster growth rates, and higher productivity in cities than outside of them. Despite this fact, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the potentially beneficial links between cities and their surroundings.
We identify five pathways by which cities can benefit regional ecosystems by releasing species from threats in the larger landscape, increasing regional habitat heterogeneity and genetic diversity, acting as migratory stopovers, preadapting species to climate change, and enhancing public engagement and environmental stewardship. Increasing recognition of these pathways could help cities identify effective strategies for supporting regional biodiversity conservation and could provide a science-based platform for incorporating biodiversity alongside other urban greening goals.
Biophilia beyond the Building: Applying the Tools of Urban Biodiversity Planning to Create Biophilic Cities. Sustainability 13 (5).2021. (7.42 MB)
In response to the widely recognized negative impacts of urbanization on biodiversity, many cities are reimagining urban design to provide better biodiversity support. Some cities have developed urban biodiversity plans, primarily focused on improving biodiversity support and ecosystem function within the built environment through habitat restoration and other types of urban greening projects. The biophilic cities movement seeks to reframe nature as essential infrastructure for cities, seamlessly integrating city and nature to provide abundant, accessible nature for all residents and corresponding health and well-being outcomes. Urban biodiversity planning and biophilic cities have significant synergies in their goals and the means necessary to achieve them. In this paper, we identify three key ways by which the urban biodiversity planning process can support biophilic cities objectives: engaging the local community; identifying science-based, quantitative goals; and setting priorities for action. Urban biodiversity planning provides evidence-based guidance, tools, and techniques needed to design locally appropriate, pragmatic habitat enhancements that support biodiversity, ecological health, and human health and well-being. Developing these multi-functional, multi-benefit strategies that increase the abundance of biodiverse nature in cities has the potential at the same time to deepen and enrich our biophilic experience in daily life.
From past patterns to future potential: using historical ecology to inform river restoration on an intermittent California river. Landscape Ecology 31 (3), 20.2016.
Context Effective river restoration requires understanding a system’s potential to support desired functions. This can be challenging to discern in the modern landscape, where natural complexity and heterogeneity are often heavily suppressed or modified. Historical analysis is therefore a valuable tool to provide the long-term perspective on riverine patterns, processes, and ecosystem change needed to set appropriate environmental management goals and strategies.
Objective In this study, we reconstructed historical (early 1800s) riparian conditions, river corridor extent, and dry-season flow on the lower Santa Clara River in southern California, with the goal of using this enhanced understanding to inform restoration and management activities.
Method Hundreds of cartographic, textual, and visual accounts were integrated into a GIS database of historical river characteristics.
Results We found that the river was characterized by an extremely broad river corridor and a diverse mosaic of riparian communities that varied by reach, from extensive ([100 ha) willow-cottonwood forests to xeric scrublands. Reach-scale ecological heterogeneity was linked to local variations in dry-season water availability, which was in turn underpinned by regional geophysical controls on groundwater and surface flow.
Conclusions Although human actions have greatly impacted the river’s extent, baseflow hydrology, and riparian habitats, many ecological attributes persist in more limited form, in large part facilitated by these fundamental hydrogeological controls. By drawing on a heretofore untapped dataset of spatially explicit and long-term environmental data, these findings improve our understanding of the river’s historical and current conditions and allow the derivation of reach-differentiated restoration and management opportunities that take advantage of local potential.
Futures Past: Exploring California Landscapes with SFEI. Boom: A Journal of California 4 (3), 24.2014. (6.67 MB)
Historical landscape ecology of an urbanized California valley: wetlands and woodlands in the Santa Clara Valley. Landscape Ecology 103-120.2007. (609.88 KB)
Primary Production in the Delta: Then and Now. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14 (3).2016. (864.19 KB)
To evaluate the role of restoration in the recovery of the Delta ecosystem, we need to have clear targets and performance measures that directly assess ecosystem function. Primary production is a crucial ecosystem process, which directly limits the quality and quantity of food available for secondary consumers such as invertebrates and fish. The Delta has a low rate of primary production, but it is unclear whether this was always the case. Recent analyses from the Historical Ecology Team and Delta Landscapes Project provide quantitative comparisons of the areal extent of 14 habitat types in the modern Delta versus the historical Delta (pre-1850). Here we describe an approach for using these metrics of land use change to: (1) produce the first quantitative estimates of how Delta primary production and the relative contributions from five different producer groups have been altered by large-scale drainage and conversion to agriculture; (2) convert these production estimates into a common currency so the contributions of each producer group reflect their food quality and efficiency of transfer to consumers; and (3) use simple models to discover how tidal exchange between marshes and open water influences primary production and its consumption. Application of this approach could inform Delta management in two ways. First, it would provide a quantitative estimate of how large-scale conversion to agriculture has altered the Delta's capacity to produce food for native biota. Second, it would provide restoration practitioners with a new approach—based on ecosystem function—to evaluate the success of restoration projects and gauge the trajectory of ecological recovery in the Delta region.
Relative effects of fluvial processes and historical land use on channel morphology in three sub-basins, Napa River basin, California, USA. IAHS, International Association of Hydrological Sciences 288.2004. (117.55 KB)
Seeing Time: A Historical Approach to Restoration. Ecological Restoration 17, 251-2. . SFEI Contribution No. 328.1999.
Shifting Baselines in a California Oak Savanna: Nineteenth Century Data to Inform Restoration Scenarios. Restoration Ecology 19 (101), 88-101 . SFEI Contribution No. 593.2010.
For centuries humans have reduced and transformed Mediterranean-climate oak woodland and savanna ecosystems, making it difficult to establish credible baselines for ecosystem structure and composition that can guide ecological restoration efforts. We combined historical data sources, with particular attention to mid-1800s General Land Office witness tree records and maps and twentieth century air photos, to reconstruct 150 years of decline in extent and stand density of Valley oak (Quercus lobata Neé) woodlands and savannas in the Santa Clara Valley of central coastal California. Nineteenth century Valley oak woodlands here were far more extensive and densely stocked than early twentieth century air photos would suggest, although reconstructed basal areas (7.5 m2/ha) and densities (48.9 trees/ha) were not outside the modern range reported for this ecosystem type. Tree densities and size distribution varied across the landscape in relation to soil and topography, and trees in open savannas were systematically larger than those in denser woodlands. For the largest woodland stand, we estimated a 99% decline in population from the mid-1800s to the 1930s. Although most of the study area is now intensely developed, Valley oaks could be reintroduced in urban and residential areas as well as in surrounding rangelands at densities comparable to the native oak woodlands and savannas, thereby restoring aspects of ecologically and culturally significant ecosystems, including wildlife habitat and genetic connectivity within the landscape.
Sports and urban biodiversity. . SFEI Contribution No. 1028.2020.
SFEI collaborated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create a guide to incorporating nature into urban sports, from the development of Olympic cities to the design and management of the many sport fields throughout the urban landscape. We applied the Urban Biodiversity Framework developed in Making Nature’s City to the world of sports, with case studies drawn from international sport federations, Olympic cities, and individual sport teams and venues around the world. The guide is part of IUCN’s ongoing collaboration with IOC to develop best practices around biodiversity for the sporting industry.
Futures Past Exploring California landscapes with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Boom: The Journal of California . pp 4-27.2014.
East Contra Costa Historical Ecology Study GIS data, GIS data produced for the East Contra Costa County Historical Ecology Study.2011. (5.37 MB) (3.1 MB)
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Watching Our Watersheds: Santa Clara Valley Past, Google Earth KMZ files: Santa Clara Valley historical points of interest, stream courses and habitats.2012. (10.61 MB)
Contrasting Fluvial Geometric Processes and Historic Change Through Time: Supporting Watershed Management in Tributaries of the Napa River Watershed (poster).2003. (233.43 KB)
Geography Department Commencement Ceremonies, UC Berkeley, Keynote Address, May 2004: "Notes from Places Past and Future".2004. (277.08 KB)
Habitat Characteristics of Past Delta Landscapes: Knowledge for Improving Future Ecosystem Resilience.2011. (8.53 MB)
Historical Change Analysis in Livermore-Amador Valley: Implications for Landscape-scale Management Strategies.2013. (1.59 MB)
Historical Ecology Informing Restoration in East Contra Costa County: Wetland Restoration Opportunities on a Tributary to Brushy Creek (Souza II Property).2009. (4.77 MB)
Landscape Change in the Napa River Watershed, 1800 - 2002: Implications for the Restoration of In - Stream, Floodplain, and Valley Floor Habitat.2003. (10.13 MB)
Physical and Ecological Characteristics of the Historic Baylands of South San Francisco Bay (Poster for the 2003 State of the Estuary Conference).2003. (231.58 KB)
Operationalizing Landscape Resilience: Enhancing Biodiversity and Ecological Function at the Landscape Scale.2015. (4.19 MB)
The Historical Ecology of the Tijuana Estuary & River Valley (Restore America's Estuaries 2018 Conference Presentation).2018. (14.16 MB)
This talk was given at the 2018 Restore America's Estuary Conference in Long Beach, CA as part of a special session titled "Restoration Perspectives from the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve." It is based on information from the Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation, a report published in 2017.
Though many areas of the binational Tijuana River watershed remain relatively undeveloped, land and water use changes over the past 200 years have resulted in significant ecological impacts, particularly in the more urbanized areas of the lower watershed. Drawing upon a diverse set of historical data, we reconstructed the ecological and hydrogeomorphic conditions of the lower Tijuana River valley prior to major Euro-American modification (ca. 1850) and documented major changes in habitat distribution and physical processes over this time. The river corridor, which was historically dominated by riparian scrub, today instead supports dense stands of riparian forest. The valley bottom surrounding the river corridor, which historically supported extensive seasonal wetlands, has largely been converted to drier habitat types and agricultural uses. The estuary, which historically supported large expanses of salt marsh and mudflat as well as seasonally dry salt flats, has retained much of its former extent and character, but has been altered by increased sediment input and other factors. The new information about the historical landscape presented here is relevant to a number of issues scientists and managers are dealing with today, including the conservation of endangered species, the fate of the valley’s riparian habitats after the recent invasion of invasive shot-hole borer beetles, and the effects on groundwater levels on native plant communities. We will also draw from other historical ecology studies conducted in Southern California to illustrate how the information about the past has been utilized to improve the functioning and resilience of nearby coastal ecosystems.
Presentation recording: available here.
Alameda Creek Watershed Historical Ecology Study. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2013. (335.05 MB) (163.08 MB)
Assessing Ecological Potential in an Urbanized Coastal Ecosystem: Methods and Findings from Historical Research in the San Francisco Bay Area (Abstract for Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project Conference 2002).2002. (5.8 KB)
An Assessment of the South Bay Historical Tidal-Terrestrial Transition Zone. SFEI Contribution No. 693. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2013. (7.87 MB)
Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals. SFEI Contribution No. 330. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, San Francisco, Calif./S.F. Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Oakland, Calif. p 328.1999. (7.11 MB)
Cartographic analysis of historical and modern baylands boundaries for Marin County, California. SFEI Contribution No. 229. Marin County Community Develpment Agency. p 88 pp.1998.
Changing Channels: Regional Information for Developing Multi-benefit Flood Control Channels at the Bay Interface. Flood Control 2.0. SFEI Contribution No. 801. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2017. (62.69 MB) (23.02 MB)
Over the past 200 years, many of the channels that drain to San Francisco Bay have been modified for land reclamation and flood management. The local agencies that oversee these channels are seeking new management approaches that provide multiple benefits and promote landscape resilience. This includes channel redesign to improve natural sediment transport to downstream bayland habitats and beneficial re-use of dredged sediment for building and sustaining baylands as sea level continues to rise under a changing climate. Flood Control 2.0 is a regional project that was created to help develop innovative approaches for integrating habitat improvement and resilience into flood risk management at the Bay interface. Through a series of technical, economic, and regulatory analyses, the project addresses some of the major elements associated with multi-benefit channel design and management at the Bay interface and provides critical information that can be used by the management and restoration communities to develop long-term solutions that benefit people and wildlife.
This Flood Control 2.0 report provides a regional analysis of morphologic change and sediment dynamics in flood control channels at the Bay interface, and multi-benefit management concepts aimed at bringing habitat restoration into flood risk management. The findings presented here are built on a synthesis of historical and contemporary data that included input from Flood Control 2.0 project scientists, project partners, and science advisors. The results and recommendations, summarized below, will help operationalize many of the recommendations put forth in the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Science Update (Goals Project 2015) and support better alignment of management and restoration communities on multi-benefit bayland management approaches.
Changing Delta Geometry and Ecology: The Effects of Historical Landscape Modification on Water Quality and Ecosystem Structure in Suisun Marsh and Delta.2005. (727.53 KB)
Conceptual models of freshwater influences on tidal marsh form and function, with an historical perspective. SFEI Contribution No. 327. Department of Environmental Services: City of San Jose, CA. p 237 pp.1999.
Coyote Creek Watershed Historical Ecology Study: Historical Conditions and Landscape Change in the Eastern Santa Clara Valley, California. SFEI Contribution No. 426. San Francisco Estuary Institute.2006. (188.33 MB) (27.61 MB) (27.49 MB)
Decentralized Wastewater Discharges and Multiple Benefit Natural Infrastructure: Preliminary Analysis and Next Steps (Final Project Report). East Bay Dischargers Authority .2015. (7.78 MB)
A Delta Renewed: A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Delta Landscapes Project. Prepared for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Ecosystem Restoration Program. A Report of SFEI-ASC’s Resilient Landscapes Program. SFEI Contribution No. 799. San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center: Richmond, CA.2016. (121.28 MB) (17.67 MB)
This report offers guidance for creating and maintaining landscapes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that support desired ecological functions, while retaining the overall agricultural character and water-supply service of the region. Based on extensive research into how the Delta functioned historically, how it has changed, and how it is likely to evolve, we discuss where and how to re-establish the dynamic natural processes that can sustain native Delta habitats and wildlife into the future. The approach, building on work others have piloted and championed, is to restore or emulate natural processes where possible, establish an appropriate mosaic of habitat types at the landscape scale, use multi-benefit management strategies to increase support for native species in agricultural and urban areas, and allow the Delta to adapt to future uncertainties of climate change, levee failure, and human population growth. With this approach, it will be critical to integrate ecological improvements with the human landscape: a robust agricultural economy, water infrastructure and diversions, and urbanized areas. Strategic restoration that builds on the history and ecology of the region can contribute to the strong sense of place and recreational value of the Delta.
Printed copies of the report are available for purchase.
A Delta Transformed: Ecological Functions, Spatial Metrics, and Landscape Change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. SFEI Contribution No. 729. San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center: Richmond, CA.2014. (58.56 MB) (11.76 MB)
East Contra Costa Historical Ecology Study. SFEI Contribution No. 648. SFEI: Oakland.2011. (17.71 MB) (123.69 MB) (149.82 MB) (193.36 MB)
Ecological, Geomorphic, and Land Use History of Carneros Creek Watershed: A component of the watershed management plan for the Carneros Creek watershed, Napa County, California. SFEI Contribution No. 70. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Oakland.2004. (1.15 MB)
Ecological, Geomorphic, and Land Use History of Sulphur Creek Watershed: A component of the watershed management plan for the Sulphur Creek watershed, Napa County, California. SFEI Contribution No. 307. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Oakland.2004. (12.87 MB)
Ecological implications of modeled hydrodynamic changes in the upper San Francisco Estuary: Phase II Technical Memorandum. SFEI Contribution No. 786.2016. (955.14 KB)
The physical and ecological environment of the upper San Francisco Estuary has been profoundly altered since the early 1800s. Recent efforts have utilized maps of the upper estuary’s historical habitat types to infer associated changes in desired ecosystem processes and functions. The work presented in this memo builds on these previous efforts, but utilizes a new tool for evaluating change over time: a 3D hydrodynamic model of the pre-development estuary. This model was constructed by Resource Management Associates (RMA) using a new digital elevation model of the pre-development upper estuary generated by SFEI and UC Davis (UCD) and “natural” boundary flows calculated by the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR).
Once completed and calibrated, the pre-development model was paired with a similar model of the contemporary system in order to analyze hydrodynamic changes in the upper estuary. These analyses are presented in a technical memorandum published by RMA (2015). This memorandum takes these analyses and considers the ecological implications of modeled changes (see the “Results” section). Hydrodynamic analyses include analyzing changes in tidal prism, isohaline positions, low-salinity zone habitat, channel velocity, and source water distribution.
In addition to describing the ecological implications of modeled hydrodynamic changes, this memorandum summarizes major ongoing questions about estuarine hydrodynamics that might be explored using these models, including changes in water residence time, temperature, transport pathways, and the connectivity of aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats. Understanding changes in these and other factors would greatly improve our understanding of the desirable ecosystem functions provided by the historical system and, as a result, improve our ability to recover these functions now and into the future.
A Geographic History of the San Lorenzo Creek Watershed: Landscape Patterns Underlying Human Activities (w / 8.5x11 or 11 x 17 map). SFEI Contribution No. 85. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Oakland, CA.2003. (8.84 MB) (9.57 MB)
Historical Changes in Channel Alignment along Lower Laguna de Santa Rosa and Mark West Creek. SFEI: Richmond, CA.2014. (9.78 MB)
Historical Ecology and Landscape Change in the Central Laguna de Santa Rosa. SFEI Contribution No. 820. San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center: Richmond, CA.2017. (94.51 MB) (39.07 MB)
This study synthesizes a diverse array of data to examine the ecological patterns, ecosystem functions, and hydrology that characterized a central portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa during the mid-19th century, and to analyze landscape changes over the past 150 years. The primary purpose of this study was to help guide restoration actions and other measures aimed at reducing nutrient loads within this portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed.
Historical Ecology of Lower San Francisquito Creek Phase 1. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Oakland, Ca.2009. (3.99 MB)
The Historical Ecology of Napa Valley: An Introduction. SFEI Contribution No. 557.2008. (33.68 MB) (5.01 MB)
Historical Ecology of South Santa Clara County: Preliminary Findings. A Technical Memorandum to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan. SFEI Contribution No. 527.2007. (36.53 MB)
Historical Ecology of the lower Santa Clara River, Ventura River, and Oxnard Plain: an analysis of terrestrial, riverine, and coastal habitats. SFEI Contribution No. 641. SFEI: Oakland.2011. (17.09 MB) (201.86 MB)
Historical Ecology Reconnaissance for the Lower Salinas River. SFEI Contribution No. 581. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond. p 32.2009. (44 MB)
Historical Vegetation and Drainage Patterns of Western Santa Clara Valley: A technical memorandum describing landscape ecology in Lower Peninsula, West Valley, and Guadalupe Watershed Management Areas. SFEI Contribution No. 622. SFEI: Oakland.2010. (43.77 MB) (1.29 MB)
Historical Wetlands of the Southern California Coast: An Atlas of US Coast Survey T-sheets, 1851-1889. SFEI Contribution No. 586. SFEI: Oakland.2011. (202 MB) (196.79 MB) (5.42 MB) (4.95 MB)
Introduced Tidal Marsh Plants in the San Francisco Estuary: Regional Distribution and Priorities for Control. SFEI Contribution No. 321. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond CA. p 42.1998. (155.6 KB)
An Introduction to the Historical Ecology of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve: a Tool for the Critical Coastal Area Action Plan.2008. (19.1 MB) (1.64 MB)
An Introduction to the Historical Ecology of the Sonoma Creek Watershed: a Tool for the Critical Coastal Area Action Plan. San Francisco Estuary Institute.2008. (20.83 MB)
An Introduction to the Historical Ecology of the Watsonville Sloughs: a Tool for the Critical Coastal Area Action Plan. San Francisco Estuary Institute.2008. (1.32 MB) (16.53 MB)