Re-Oaking Silicon Valley: Building Vibrant Cities with Nature. SFEI Contribution No. 825. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2017.
In this report, we investigate how re-integrating components of oak woodlands into developed landscapes — “re-oaking” — can provide an array of valuable functions for both wildlife and people. Re-oaking can increase the biodiversity and ecological resilience of urban ecosystems, improve critical urban forest functions such as shade and carbon storage, and enhance the capacity of cities to adapt to a changing climate. We focus on Silicon Valley, where oak woodland replacement by agriculture and urbanization tells a story that has occurred in many other cities in California. We highlight how the history and ecology of the Silicon Valley landscape can be used as a guide to plan more ecologically-resilient cities in the Bay Area, within the region and elsewhere in California. We see re-oaking as part of, and not a substitute for, the important and broader oak woodland conservation efforts taking place throughout the state.
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Photo by Shira Bezalel
“Re-Oaking” is an approach to reintegrating oaks and other native trees within the developed California landscape to provide a range of ecosystem services. The concept has emerged from SFEI's research into the distribution and characteristics of California's former valley oak savannas -- a distinctive, widespread habitat that was mostly lost a century ago. Now valley oaks and other native trees are being recognized for the benefits they did -- and could again – provide, as communities design the ecologically healthy and resilient landscapes of the future.
Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands (Project)
Photo Credits: Micha Salomon (L), Dee Shea Himes (R)
Through the Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands project, SFEI and sixteen partner organizations are developing multi-benefit tools to enhance climate change resilience in San Francisco Bay. Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands has three major components: Making Nature’s City: a Science-based Framework for Building Urban Biodiversity, Tidal Wetlands Restoration and Implementation Projects.
Disrupt the Street Tree: Could trees help Silicon Valley find an identity? (News)
As recently as a 1850, according to a recent report from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, 80 percent of the trees in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino were oak trees. Another 13 percent of the trees were those commonly found alongside oak trees in oak woodlands: buckeye, madrone, sycamore, and California bay laurel. Willows, alders, and redwoods rounded out the final 7 percent. Oaks created the place. Postcards from San Jose in the early 1900s show farmers standing in the shade of skyscraping oak trees. Spanish explorers called Silicon Valley the “plain of the oaks.” The Peninsula is still home to two Roblar Avenues, a Robles Drive, and a Robles Park, as well as the North Fair Oaks and Menlo Oaks neighborhoods of Menlo Park.
SFEI and Google share Award for Re-Oaking (News)
SFEI and Google have won the Arnold Soforenko Award from the non-profit Canopy for significant contributions to the urban forest. The award is for our work on Re-Oaking Silicon Valley: Building Vibrant Cities with Nature.
The award ceremony was held at Palo Alto City Hall on January 25, 2018.
Making Nature's City (Project)
Cities will face many challenges over the coming decades, from adapting to a changing climate to accommodating rapid population growth. A related suite of challenges threatens global biodiversity, resulting in many species facing extinction. While urban planners and conservationists have long treated these issues as distinct, there is growing evidence that cities not only harbor a significant fraction of the world’s biodiversity, but also that they can also be made more livable and resilient for people, plants, and animals through nature-friendly urban design.
Building Cities to Better Support Biodiversity (News)
Erica Spotswood and a team of other SFEI scientists have developed a framework outlining the key elements for supporting biodiversity in urban environments.