SFEI partnered with Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to create a guide on how to support biodiversity across the urbanized Santa Clara Valley. Urban greening projects (e.g., street trees, bioswales, gardens) are developing in piecemeal fashion. Designing and linking projects with ecology in mind can better support biodiversity, which in turn can help cultivate a sense of place and human health benefits.
By integrating urban ecology research, landscape history, and analysis of local setting, this guide provides a set of tools and synthesized information to help plan how to design for ecology in local cities and realize these efforts. This project builds on SFEI’s legacy of work in the region, including historical ecology of the Santa Clara Valley, Re-oaking Silicon Valley, and the Landscape Resilience Framework.
In this report, we explore landscape context and historical ecology to understand landscape patterns, processes and potential. We outline approaches for coordinating projects to support biodiversity across the landscape, and pathways to implementation across land uses and stakeholders--at the site scale and programmatic level. We identify how to use historical and contemporary information to select habitat goals, provide locally-relevant plant lists, and highlight other factors that may impact plant selection and sourcing, such as climate change and plant pathogens. Last, we discuss practical, planning, and policy drivers that may affect on-the-ground implementation and provide a list of supporting resources.
This report can provide guidance for how to coordinate multiple stakeholders to create urban greening projects that work together to build support for biodiversity. Users of this report may include a wide range of entities, such as local nonprofits, public agencies, city planners, and applicants to the Open Space Authority’s Urban Open Space Grant Program.
The information provided is most pertinent to Santa Clara County, but the broad approach and guidance could be useful in other geographies. Overall, this guidance for strategic design and planning can ultimately help cultivate a sense of place and provide benefits to nature and people alike.
Related Projects, News, and Events:
This study produced GIS layers and a report describing historical habitats in the Guadalupe, West Valley, and Lower Peninsula Watershed Management Areas of Santa Clara County (the valley floor from Palo Alto to San Jose).
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.
This report synthesizes historical evidence into a picture of how Coyote Creek looked and functioned before intensive modification. Prepared for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the report helps explain contemporary landscape conditions and identify options for watershed restoration, natural flood protection, and integrated water management.