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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.
East Contra Costa Historical Ecology Study GIS data, GIS data produced for the East Contra Costa County Historical Ecology Study.2011.
Futures Past Exploring California landscapes with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Boom: The Journal of California . pp 4-27.2014.
Journal Article (Peer-Reviewed)
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.
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.
Seeing Time: A Historical Approach to Restoration. Ecological Restoration 17, 251-2. . SFEI Contribution No. 328.1999.
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.
Primary Production in the Delta: Then and Now. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14 (3).2016.
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.
Historical landscape ecology of an urbanized California valley: wetlands and woodlands in the Santa Clara Valley. Landscape Ecology 103-120.2007.
Futures Past: Exploring California Landscapes with SFEI. Boom: A Journal of California 4 (3), 24.2014.
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.
Biophilia beyond the Building: Applying the Tools of Urban Biodiversity Planning to Create Biophilic Cities. Sustainability 13 (5).2021.
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.
The biological deserts fallacy: Cities in their landscapes contribute more than we think to regional biodiversity. BioScience 71 (2) . SFEI Contribution No. 1031.2021.
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.
Building Ecological Resilience in Highly Modified Landscapes.2018.
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.
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.
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.
Estuaries: Life on the edge. In Ecosystems of California. Ecosystems of California. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA. pp 359-388.2016.
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.
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.
Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas: Exploring a Hidden Landscape of Transformation and Resilience. UC Press: Berkeley. p 223.2012.