California’s Changing Landscape – The 5th Oak Symposium

The Fifth Consecutive Oak Symposium Focuses on California’s Changing Landscape

On October 23 to 25, 2001, the University of California Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, along with 13 other organizations,1 sponsored the California Oak Symposium at the Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego, California. There were 78 papers presented on the latest research and management of oaks and oak woodland ecosystems, and over 200 people attended.

Professor Kevin Nixon kicked off the event with a thorough overview of the worldwide distribution of oaks and the evolutionary relationship between them based on genetic information. His discussion of the origin of major California oaks revealed several interesting points; for example, Engelmann oak is the only representative species in California from a group of white oaks found primarily in Mexico (see page 5), and Q. dumosa (a scrub oak occurring in coastal southern California) has the most restricted distribution. Professor Paul Starrs’s talk reminded us that while we reduce the subject of oaks into individual conceptual issues such as genetics, disease, and policy, it is important to view the value of oak woodlands as a whole. From a historical and cultural perspective, his talk challenged the audience to develop an explicit method of valuing oak woodlands (see pages 3-4). Laurie Wayburn from Pacific Forest Trust demonstrated one mechanism for what Dr. Starrs concluded—the day has come when people will pay landowners, as a public good, to regenerate oaks on their lands. She touted the many benefits of conservation easements—an increasingly common tool for compensating landowners for not developing their land to the full extent possible.

Despite the fact that the conference was titled “Oaks in California’s Changing Landscape,” Deputy Secretary of the State Resources Agency, Michael Spear, assured the audience that the loss of oak woodlands is minimal and is only occurring in a few local places. Mr. Spear clearly stated that he was presenting the state perspective, one that does not recognize the need for widespread oak conservation programs. His supporting evidence was based on analysis of 5-year forest change data from only part of the state, demonstrating that the temporal and spatial scale of analysis can significantly influence one’s interpretation. His presentation provided a clear reminder of how institutions greatly influence the development and delivery of information.

The 78 paper-presentations that followed came from a wide variety of institutions and perspectives including natural resource managers, landowners, scientists, activists, and policy makers; and covered many aspects of oaks including oak woodland ecology, oak restoration, wildlife relations, oak conservation policy, urban forestry, grazing relations, fire relations, damaging agents, genetics and monitoring. The event culminated with a special general session that included an impressive line-up of researchers working on Sudden Oak Death. But what people are still talking about is the poster session, where great food and graphics went well together on a historic boat docked at Mission Bay.

Complete details on the conference program and paper abstracts can be found at US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station. The forthcoming conference proceedings will include peer-reviewed papers on all the topics presented.

~The Editors

1 California Central Coast Chapter of The Wildlife Society; California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire and Resources Protection Program; California Native Plant Society; California Oak Foundation; Central Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council; Department of Fish and Game, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch; The Nature Conservancy; Northern California Society of American Foresters; Society for Range Management, California Section; Southern California Society of American Foresters; USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region; USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station; The Western Section of the Wildlife Society. 

prepared and edited by Adina Merenlender and Emily