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1-1 1. DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS OF THE VALLEY OAK (QUERCUS LOBATA NEE) IN CALIFORNIA The valley oak (Quercus lobata Neé) is among the largest and longest lived of the


11 1 DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS OF THE VALLEY OAK (QUERCUS LOBATA NEE) IN CALIFORNIA The valley oak (Quercus lobata Neé) is among the largest and longest lived of the North American oaks, attaining trunk diameters up to 4 m, heights of 12 to 25 m, and ages of 300 years or more Unique to California, this oak is also one of California’s most familiar and evocative icons Where they occur, large valley oaks are focal visual and ecological elements of both developed and rural landscapes Ironically, the valley oak has also been more impacted by human activities than any other oak in the State, and recent research indicates that the species is in demise over much of its range Many counties have adopted or are considering strong valley oak conservation measures, provoking angry debates among environmentalists, agricultural and development interests Unfortunately, as we hope to summarize in this paper, information on the distribution and status of the valley oak that could help inform the development of appropriate policy is very sketchy and biased In fact, the species has never been reliably surveyed, and alternative mapping and inventory strategies may be needed if we are to obtain data that can usefully inform ongoing policy debates S TATEWIDE INVENTORY AND M ONITORING Valley oak occurs mainly in the Central Valley and surrounding valleys and foothills, ranging from near Shasta Lake to the Santa Monica Mountains (Figure 11) The species is generally restricted to deep loamy soils at elevations less than 600 m, but some populations occur above 1500 m in Southern California (Griffin and Critchfield 1972) The savanna community type is found on alluvial soils of valley floors and some broad ridge tops throughout the Coast Ranges Denser riparian stands are found along the margins of rivers, especially in the Central Valley valley oaks are not found in valleys directly exposed to coastal winds, as the species is sensitive to salt aerosols Valley oaks occur mainly in five general land use/land cover settings: 1) valley oak and mixed oak riparian or gallery forest; 2) valley oak and mixed oak woodland and savanna; 3) Upland mixed oak and mixed evergreeen forest; 4) as relict trees in improved pastures, croplands, orchards and vineyards; and, 5) as relict trees in residential and developed recreational areas (eg, golf courses, county parks, etc) Despite recent, ambitious and welldesigned efforts to inventory California’s hardwood rangelands (eg, Pillsbury et al 1991, Pacific Meridian Resources 1994), we lack complete 12 statewide estimates of valley oak distribution, status and trends in all except perhaps the upland woodland types This is mainly because current vegetation classification and mapping systems only register valley oaks in woodland and forest vegetetion when the species attains canopy cover levels greater than 10% over areas larger than 40100 acres (Table 11) Throughout much of its range, valley oak occurs in sparser savannas, in smaller remnant woodlots and riparian stringers, as a minor component of other hardwood communities, or as isolated relict trees Thus, from the perspective of assessing the species’ status and trends, a large fraction of remaining valley oak populations is excluded from existing monitoring efforts Some counties are conducting more detailed inventories, but there is no consistency among the local and statewide mapping efforts that would allow regional or rangewide assessments Table 11 Statewide estimates of Valley Oak Woodland Source Canopy Cover Class (%) Acres %Private Bolsinger (1988) >10% 274,000 86 Pillsbury et al (1991) All 251,000 90 010 106,000 1033 89,000 1034 49,000 Davis et al (1998) >10% 227,734 95 PMR (1994) All 73,169 The first systematic mapping of vegetation

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