Over the past century, oaks have been lost from fertile valleys across California to make way for agriculture, and then for cities. Yet cities could make room for their return; by harnessing the many greening activities that are already occurring, oaks could be planted along streets, in yards, and on corporate campuses. Re-oaking could help build ecological resilience while providing benefits for people such as carbon storage and water savings. Integrating elements of this lost ecosystem into our cities could help to support some of the amazing biodiversity that is characteristic of oak woodlands. By bringing nature to our backyards, we could cultivate deeper connections between people and the iconic ecosystems of California.
In Re-oaking Silicon Valley, a recently completed report featured in the current issue of Estuary News, SFEI explores these ideas. Funded by Google through the Resilient Silicon Valley project, the report shows how re-integrating oaks back into urban landscapes could benefit ecosystems and people in Silicon Valley and beyond. The report develops an ecological foundation for Re-oaking, quantifies how Silicon Valley ecosystems have changed through time, and offers many practical suggestions for how to conduct re-oaking in a way that will maximize ecological benefits.
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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.