Bay Area Woody Vegetation Monitoring Workshop

This page provides materials presented at the Bay Area Woody Vegetation Monitoring Workshop
Pepperwood Preserve, March 28, 2013

David Ackerly, University of California Berkeley
Lisa Micheli, Pepperwood Preserve
Michelle Jensen, Pepperwood Preserve

Sponsored by:
Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaborative (
Pepperwood Preserve
with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Workshop Abstract
Long-term changes in vegetation play a critical role in natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. Numerous factors can drive changes over time, including wildfire and other disturbances, grazing, disease, succession, land use change, invasive species, nitrogen deposition, and climate change. Vegetation in the San Francisco Bay Area is strongly structured on regional gradients of climate, topography, and soils, and extensive changes have taken place in the past, and are continuing today due to urbanization, changing land use and the factors outlined above. Future projections, especially those based on climate models, project marked shifts in the distribution of major vegetation types along coastal-inland and elevational gradients.

Long-term monitoring via vegetation mapping, remote sensing, and permanent plot networks is essential to provide baseline data and well-documented evidence of these changing patterns. Monitoring is also critical to assess the importance and effectiveness of management interventions and implementation of adaptive management strategies. While their importance is widely recognized, monitoring programs are also notoriously difficult to maintain due to competing institutional and financial demands.

On March 28, 2013, we convened a group of about 25 researchers and land managers from around the Bay Area to discuss the current status and future prospects for long-term monitoring of woody vegetation. The goals of the meeting were to 1) initiate a dialog on our collective efforts at vegetation monitoring, with a focus on permanent plot projects; 2) discuss some of the primary factors contributing to vegetation change in the Bay Area; 3) learn about the objectives and protocols of individual different projects; and 4) discuss interest and potential for data sharing and project coordination as we move forward.

Introductory talks addressing overarching objectives of local monitoring efforts:

Robert Steers (National Park Service) Monitoring targets of the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Project; work to date to develop protocols and begin implementation of a systematic monitoring effort across NPS sites.
Dave Rizzo (UC Davis) Overview of the Sudden Oak Death epidemic, including an update on the current extent of infection and the status of efforts to document the extent, severity and spread of the disease.
Alison Forrestel (National Park Service) The role of wildfire, work documenting the changes that occurred at Pt. Reyes National Seashore following the 1995 Vision Fire.
David Ackerly (UC Berkeley) Current models for projected impacts of climate change on Bay Area vegetation, and overall shifts that may occur, especially in the distribution of woodlands vs. shrublands.

Short talks on current monitoring projects:

Daniel George and Robert Steers, National Park Service NPS Inventory and Monitoring Projects for Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, John Muir National Historic Site, Pinnacles National Park
Cyndy Shafer, California State Parks Management of Douglas-fir invasion, with a focus on Annadel State Park
Margaret Metz, UC Davis Sudden oak death monitoring plots, Big Sur and Central Coast Networks
Dave Rizzo, UC Davis (presenting for Hall Cushman, Sonoma State) Sudden oak death monitoring plots, Sonoma Mountain
Sam Veloz, PRBO Conservation Science Long-term vegetation monitoring at Palomarin field station
Paul Fine, UC Berkeley Strawberry Canyon forest plot, Berkeley
Jim Thorne, UC Davis Vegetation Type Mapping project, historical changes in the Sierra Nevada, 20th century urbanization and conservation history in the Bay Area
Stu Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observation Phenology monitoring, topographic heterogeneity and climate change
Greg Gilbert, UC Santa Cruz Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) at UC Santa Cruz
Lisa Micheli, Pepperwood Preserve North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative (NBCAI), plans for Sonoma Co. climate change and phenology monitoring network
Matthew Britton, UC Berkeley TBC3 woody vegetation research project at Pepperwood Preserve (David Ackerly, PI)
Mateo Clark, Sonoma State Univ. Hyperspectral infrared imager satellite (HyspIRI), 2013 NASA test flights covering Bay Area and other parts of California
Tom Robinson, Sonoma Co. Agricultural and Open Space District Sonoma Co. Vegetation Mapping Project
Andrea Williams, Marin Municipal Water District Vegetation mapping and monitoring projects
Sam Veloz, PRBO Conservation Science Environmental Change Network project

The afternoon concluded with an open discussion of some of the opportunities and challenges ahead for long-term monitoring of Bay Area vegetation, focusing on these topics:

1) What are the tradeoffs between vegetation mapping approaches, relying on the assignment of plant communities to particular types or alliances (e.g., in the Manual of California Vegetation), vs. plot-based approaches that provide quantitative data on individual species, and often on the growth and survival of individual trees.

2) How do the goals of a project relate to the underlying sampling designs, and what are the tradeoffs between studies that are designed to monitor particular factors or test specific hypotheses, vs. projects that focus on certain indicators of change without specific questions or hypotheses.

3) How do monitoring results influence land management decisions on the ground?

We also discussed the interest level in creating a project registry or metadata record, which could lead to creation of a searchable spatial database (e.g., a Google Maps interface) showing all the ongoing projects. One of the key challenges in such an effort is to ensure that the database could be kept up to date, so that it remains useful over time.

Last Updated: