Could restoring lost ecosystems to cities play a role in building ecological resilience across landscapes? In Re-oaking Silicon Valley, a new report by SFEI, we explore this opportunity in our region. Both beautiful and functional, native oaks can be excellent choices for streetscapes, backyards, and landscaping. Requiring little water after establishment, oaks can save money by reducing irrigation requirements while sequestering more carbon than most other urban trees common to our region. Oaks are also foundation species, forming the base of a complex biotic community that forms the most diverse habitat type in California.
Synthesizing ecological science, historical data, and contemporary landscape analysis, Re-Oaking Silicon Valley investigates the potential for California cities to benefit from the re-integration of native oak ecosystems into the urban fabric. The report evaluates the critical role played by oak woodlands in California landscapes, the changing characteristics of Santa Clara Valley’s urban forest, and the potential for enhancing biodiversity through ecologically-based urban design. The report also considers the diverse array of benefits native oaks offer to urban communities—from drought-tolerant temperature modulation to deeper connections to nature and a greater sense of place.
Funded by Google’s Ecology Program, the project is a part of Resilient Silicon Valley, which is developing a scientific foundation to guide investments in regional ecosystem health and resilience. Providing an array of specific guidelines for urban forestry and landscaping, Re-Oaking Silicon Valley begins to envision how we could design the more ecologically healthy and resilient cities of the future.
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Drawing on resilience science, regional data, and local expertise, we will develop the vision and tools that will allow stakeholders in the region ensure that local actions contribute toward the creation of a high-functioning and resilient Silicon Valley ecosystem.
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.