Trees are one of the most significant living forces in our environment. In our region, oaks in particular have played a key role in supporting local ecosystems and sustaining a diverse web of native wildlife. Over the last two centuries, however, once prevalent oak woodlands have been largely eliminated, first by agricultural conversion, and later by rapid development and urbanization.
Today, there is increasing recognition that re-integrating oaks in our parks and urban landscapes promises a host of benefits, both for wildlife and for people.
As a first step, Canopy and partners are reviving a comprehensive survey of native oaks in Palo Alto.
The original OakWell Survey was one of the first projects taken on by Canopy over 20 years ago. From 1997-2001, a small group of volunteers surveyed coast live oaks, valley oaks, black oaks, and blue oaks to create a baseline for future evaluation of changes in Palo Alto’s native oak population.
This small but dedicated corps of volunteers mapped 9,000 oak trees (13,000 counting groves)! They gathered new and valuable data about the health and locations of these trees, and transferred oak tree care instructions to homeowners.
Palo Alto’s recently adopted Urban Forest Master Plan addresses the need to conserve and grow our native tree population, and Canopy plays a significant part in this effort by launching The Great Oak Count. We began information gathering about the original survey in 2016, and in October 2017 will launch the survey update efforts
The original surveyors did not know the long-term benefit of the survey at the time, but, combined with new survey data, their efforts will help today’s urban forest managers understand the trends over the last 20 years, and guide recommendations and re-oaking efforts for the coming decades.
This “Oaktober”, we piloted a new method of data collection using our brand new Canopy Tree Plotter (stay tuned for more on this soon!). Instead of clipboards and printed reports, volunteers will be equipped with smartphones and tablets, plotting oak trees on an interactive, easy-to-use online map.
Our hope is that this tool will facilitate accurate, efficient data collection, enabling us to assess and report our findings in real time. The user-friendly format will also be fun for volunteers!
To learn more about the The Great Oak Count, contact Indira Selvakumaraswamy, Community Outreach Manager, at [email protected].