How Santa Barbara does woodlands
Glenn J. Schreuder | Feb 2, 2015
No need to reinvent the wheel in Napa County, here’s how the County of Santa Barbara kills time on a slow day at the planning department:
Santa Barbara Comprehensive Plan: Conservation Elelment
Excerpt from the Overview section:
Oak savannas, woodlands, forests, and the grassland and riparian systems that complement them are California’s most biologically diverse ecosystems and integral parts of the state’s cultural and historical heritage.
Santa Barbara County is fortunate to retain a significant, though reduced, distribution of the oak habitats that once blanketed the Central Coast.
Oak habitats contribute greatly to the ecological diversity of California. In terms of species diversity, California’s native oak woodlands provide habitat for approximately 2,000 species of plants, 170 birds, 100 mammals (approximately one-third of all mammals native to California), 60 amphibians and reptiles, and 5,000 species of insects (University of California 1993 and 1996).
These species include eagles, owls, hawks, reptiles, bobcats, foxes, deer, and 300 or more other vertebrate species that depend on oak habitats during their breeding seasons.
In terms of ecological function, intact oak habitats stabilize the soil on which they occur, serving to help prevent the erosion of topsoil and protect water quality.
Oak trees also provide shade, influencing the temperature and growth conditions for understory species. The community of oak-associated plants, vertebrates, invertebrates, and soil microbes varies from site to site, in response to site-specific conditions and the extent of influence by the dominant oaks.
Within these communities, structural complexity is enhanced by the presence of riparian areas, downed and woody debris, snags, and diverse ages and conditions in oaks and other plants (Merrick et al. 1999).
California’s oaks are also important for their aesthetic, economic, historical, and cultural values. Oak trees and their habitats are woven into California and Santa Barbara County’s cultural heritage, beginning with the indigenous peoples that utilized oak tree products and valued the oak woodlands in their cultural traditions.
After European settlement in California, oak habitats have continued to be an enduring symbol of the state’s rich ranching tradition, and to be valued economically and aesthetically.
The presence of oak trees on a property can increase the property’s value by 20% or more (University of California 1993).
They are one of the county’s and the state’s most widely recognized and admired visual assets.
In both the urban and rural areas of Santa Barbara County, oak woodlands and large, individual oak trees contribute significantly to the scenic beauty for which the county is known.
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