Posts Tagged: Bill Tietje
California Oak Symposium set for Oct. 31–Nov. 3 in San Luis Obispo
The 8th California Oak Symposium will be held Oct. 31–Nov. 3 in San Luis Obispo, and anyone involved in research, education, management or conservation of California's oak woodlands is invited to participate.
The theme of the symposium is “Sustaining California Oak Woodlands Under Current and Future Conditions.” The four-day event's 62 concurrent session talks and 30 posters will cover climate change, wildlife ecology, oak restoration, oak pests and diseases, fire ecology, and ranch management and generational transfer.
Oak scientists, foresters, tribal members, land managers, policymakers and other interested individuals will gather to discuss the state of knowledge about the science, policy and management of California's oak woodlands.
“Given the risks associated with climate change, conservation of this diverse ecosystem is an especially critical management and policy priority today,” said symposium co-chair Bill Tietje, University of California Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist based in San Luis Obispo.
The symposium will kick off on Oct. 31 with three optional tours to observe Central Coast oak management and conservation. The Dangermond Preserve tour will provide a glimpse into the home of 54 special status species – including 14 threatened and endangered plant and animal species – in 6,000 acres of coast live oak woodlands at Point Conception. On the Sinton Family Avenales Ranch tour, Steve Sinton, co-founder of the California Rangeland Trust, will discuss the history and management of the ranch, which offers hunting and hosts UC Cooperative Extension long-term research projects. The Oak Conservation tour will visit the Cuesta Ridge oak diversity hotspot, Learning Among the Oaks outdoor education and youth environmental leadership training program, Santa Margarita Vineyard and oak restoration activities at Cayuse Ranch.
Keynote speaker David Ackerly, dean and professor of UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources, will open the second day with an overview of climate change and oaks. Other speakers will discuss the science of climate change, management of oak woodland under changing environmental conditions, and the maintenance of working landscapes and the essential services they provide to society.
On the third day, two special-topic panels will describe California oak programs for schools, citizen scientists and underrepresented groups. Panelists will also describe technologies used to increase understanding of the oak woodland ecosystem and how to apply the information.
The closing day will feature a plenary session on managing and maintaining working landscapes during prolonged drought. To wrap up the symposium, Paul Starrs, University of Nevada-Reno emeritus professor, will deliver the capstone talk, “Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”
Beginning in 1979, seven symposia have been held every five to seven years to address the state of knowledge about the science, policy and management of California's oak woodlands. The eighth in the series was originally set for 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic.
For more information, including the full program, and to register, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/oaksymposium.
Curious about oaks? Find answers on new UC Oaks website
Oak trees are iconic in California's landscape. Just about anything you would like to know about caring for the state's 8 million acres of oak woodlands is now accessible to the public online. University of California Cooperative Extension scientists have updated the UC Oaks website at https://oaks.cnr.berkeley.edu with oak ecology, management and oak woodland conservation information based on over 30 years of research.
“On the home page, we have highlighted oak topics – such as oak planting, oak ecology and rangeland management – that have been of special interest to website users,” said Bill Tietje, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist at UC Berkeley, based in San Luis Obispo.
About 80% of the oak woodlands in California are privately owned, with the majority used for grazing, primarily by beef cattle.
“We added some of the latest UC oak research and plan to promote the website to groups who have not historically used it, in particular, the ranching community,” said Devii Rao, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. “It is essential that landowners and managers have the tools they need to maintain healthy trees and conserve large-scale oak woodlands.”
Development policy, livestock management on rangelands, urban oak care, oak regeneration, effects of wildfire on oaks, wildlife and threats to oak woodlands are featured on the website.
Since its creation in 1995 by emeritus UC Cooperative Extension specialist Rick Standiford, the website, originally called UC Oak Woodland Management, has been a valuable educational resource, with an average of 45,000 visitors annually.
Updating and redesigning the website for mobile devices was funded by a Renewable Resources Extension Act Capacity Grant received by Tietje, Rao and Luke Macaulay, UC Cooperative Extension specialist rangeland planning and policy specialist at UC Berkeley. They worked with a professional designer to improve the website's functionality and visual appeal, and will continue to add new information.
To increase user friendliness, the UCCE team created links at the top of the UC Oaks home page for its three primary target audiences: homeowners, land-use planners and ranchers.
If you can't find an answer, click the “Ask an Oak Expert” button to submit your question and a UCCE oak expert will reply.
“With its new look and expanded reach, we hope that the website will be a one-stop shop for everything people need to know about oak woodland conservation and management,” said Rao, who manages the website.
Oaks in vineyards a ‘win-win’ for bats and growers
Californians love their oak trees. During vineyard development, Central Coast grape growers often feel compelled to leave an old iconic oak standing, even if it ends up right in the middle of their vineyard. While driving through the Central Coast, it's not unusual to see the pattern of vineyard rows broken by a majestic oak tree. Aside from their beauty, what are some of the ecosystem services that these majestic trees provide?
To understand the potential value of remnant oak trees for insectivorous bats, the researchers placed microphones to detect bat calls within 14 Central Coast vineyards. The recordings revealed 11 species of insectivorous bats foraged within the vineyards and bat foraging activity was 1.5 times greater at the trees compared to open, tree-less areas within the vineyard. And the bigger the tree, the bigger the number of bats it attracted.
“The study results suggest that the large oak tree in my vineyard not only increases the beauty and biodiversity of the agricultural landscape, but also attracts insect-eating bats that can provide natural pest control—a win-win,” said grape grower Jerry Reaugh, who cooperated with the researchers.
Tietje hopes that the free insect-reduction services provided by bats will increase grape growers' incentive to manage and maintain the trees, and even to plant new oak trees in suitable areas around their vineyard, in mutual benefit to both agriculture and biodiversity.
“In addition to their value for insectivorous bats, remnant trees maintain bird and insect diversity by providing food, habitat, cover and stepping stones that facilitate the movement of wildlife within agricultural landscapes,” said Tietje.
This study comes at a time when declining blue oak and valley oak populations are of great concern.
“We hope the study will increase awareness of these beautiful and beneficial trees and make the case for conservation and restoration,” Tietje said. “Preserving and enhancing biodiversity in the midst of climate change is key to ensuring resilience in our landscapes and communities.”
Help an oak tree tolerate severe drought
“Concern has grown since severely stressed and even dead oak trees are becoming common observances,” said William Tietje, UCANR Cooperative Extension area natural resources specialist based inSan Luis Obispo County. “People are asking, ‘What can I do to help?'”
“Three options come to mind: deep water, mulch or do nothing,” said Tietje. Below, he and Steven Swain, UCANR Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor for Marin and Sonoma counties, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Q: Should oak trees be watered?
If the soil under your oak 12 to 18 inches down is dry and crumbly, the oak is out of water. A deep watering will invigorate the drought-stressed tree. Perhaps it seems ill-advised to water an oak tree during a drought. But think about it a minute. If you lose the oak, you lose substantial aesthetic and property values. Also lost are the many ecosystem services provided by this “keystone” structure, such as shade, soil nutrients, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. These take a very long time to replace.
Q: How do I deep water?
Deep watering of the drought-stressed tree is accomplished by moving a hose under the canopy of the tree during the day for one or two days at a low flow or trickle, such that the water percolates into the soil. Do this once or twice during the summer to early fall with at least a month between watering to allow the soil to dry, reducing the likelihood that fungi will attack the tree roots.
Q: Why mulch?
A prudent approach to the current drought and the maintenance of tree health is to conserve existing soil moisture as much as possible. Mulching under the tree helps to control moisture by keeping the soil cool and suppressing weed growth. Mulching also adds valuable soil microorganisms.
Q: Does mulch need to be composed exclusively of oak leaves and twigs?
A: No—Although the best mulch is the oak's natural leaf litter, other plant-based mulches can provide a similar benefit. In fact, there may be some advantages to having other plant components in the mulch.
Q: Can commercially available mulch provide the benefits of natural oak mulch?
A: Yes—Most any plant-based, commercially available mulch should be fine, especially mulches that are derived from multiple sources, such as municipal green-waste that has been composted. Composting allows some of the more reactive compounds that may be present in the mulch to be broken down by heat, chemical and biological means. There isn't necessarily a problem with using a single-source mulch (e.g., grape pressings, nitrolized sawdust [nitrolization allows nitrogen to remain available to the plant]), but because single-source mulches lack the variety of densities, chip sizes and nutrient compositions typically found in multiple-sourced mulches, there is a somewhat greater risk of problems using single-source mulches. Commercial compost may be listed as green-waste compost. The best recipe is 1 to 2 inches of compost overlain with 2 inches of coarsely chopped fir, redwood bark or wood, totaling 3 to 4 inches of mulch. Cover the area under the tree canopy at least up to the drip line. Don't mound the mulch against the tree trunk.
Q: Should mulch be mixed into the soil?
A: No—Although the oftentimes repeated advice that mixing mulch into the soil can cause a nitrogen shortage is mostly a myth, there are other reasons for not incorporating the mulch into the soil:
- The process can cause root damage to existing plants
- The process can degrade existing soil structure
- Organic matter breaks down over time, and in the process causes the soils in which it has been mixed to eventually shrink in volume. This is fine in some instances, but it can spell disaster if one has incorporated mulch into soils that were placed beneath sapling trees, for instance. In this case, the soil under the tree will shrink in volume, and the tree will sink into the soil. Water then pools around the base of the tree, and the tree eventually develops root rot.
Because mulches are incorporated naturally into soils by earthworms, springtails, and microorganisms, the benefits of digging mulches into the soil are pretty much balanced by the liabilities. In short, save yourself the work. Put the mulches on the ground and let the earthworms do the work for you.
Q: Is there any mulch that is categorically unacceptable?
A: Common sense should prevail—Coarsely chopped bark, wood and leaves is probably the best composition for a mulch, and that same material composted is about as ideal as one can get. The very best are oak leaf mulches, which exist, but are quite pricey and are typically derived by stripping wild oaks of their natural mulch base. Even less-than-ideal source material, such as eucalyptus leaves or black walnut roots, can be safely used if properly composted.
Q: If oak trimmings and dead leaf fall from native oak trees are used for mulch, is the presence of termites or the spreading of oak bark beetles a concern?
A: No—Termites do not live (for long) in wood chips. They require contiguous, solid wood to form colonies. The spread of termites in wood chips, or even in small branches, is therefore a non-issue. Every spring, summer and fall, oak bark beetles actively hunt stressed oak trees in central coast woodlands, and will find them from miles away. Worrying about spreading any of the various bark beetles that can attack oaks is a little like worrying about getting salt spray at the beach. They've been here for millions of years before us, and they'll likely be here millions of years after we're gone. That said, you may not want to encourage large colonies in your back yard by, for example, stockpiling large amounts of beetle infested firewood right beneath an oak tree.
If your tree appears healthy, with dense and green leaves over at least most of the canopy, it could be best to do nothing. In other words, “If it isn't broken, don't fix it.” Give proper considerations for the use of water during the current severe drought, and mandatory water-use restrictions, and deep water only if the tree shows symptoms of severe stress.
On the Central Coast, the predominant native oak trees are valley oak and blue oak, which drop their leaves in the winter, and the evergreen coastal live oak. Keep in mind that the two deciduous oaks, blue oak and valley oak, can respond to drought by undergoing leaf browning and leaf fall as early as July. This is a natural mechanism that the tree has evolved for water conservation. The tree is not dead and should be fine. All else considered, mulching that includes a green waste compost as described above could well be the most appropriate solution. Mulch conserves water as opposed to using water for deep watering, and mulching can improve important soil properties.
For more information, visit the UC Cooperative Extension San Luis Obispo County website http://cesanluisobispo.ucanr.edu and the UCANR oak woodland management website http://ucanr.edu/sites/oak_range.
Rain helps rangeland trees and grasses begin recovery
“Water stress renders oak trees more likely to express early leaf browning and to be more susceptible to damage from native and introduced tree pests and diseases,” said Bill Tietje, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist. “One or more of these (drought years) could be the last straw for an already stressed tree.”
Recent rain has helped, but trees on shallow soil or on warm, south-facing hillsides are especially vulnerable.
“We are getting many reports of trees that are on the way out or are dead,” Tietje said. “The drought is certainly weakening many trees, and those that are old or have oak worm are dying.”
The Tribune reported that stressed valley oaks have a tendency to drop limbs or for the whole tree to drop, according to a report by Mary Bianchi, UCCE advisor and director in San Luis Obispo County. This happens because the tree closes its pores to conserve water while its roots continue to soak up what water they can.
“This causes water to build up in the trunk and limbs,” Bianchi wrote. “Apparently, the extra weight can cause limbs and maybe the whole tree to break, by some reports as though the tree exploded.”
Rangeland grasses are greening the foothills
The grassy surface of rangeland is faring better, reported the Modesto Bee. Abundant rain in December brought new growth to rangeland that has suffered badly in three years of drought.
“This December has been great for growing grass, lots of moisture and warm temperatures,” said an email from Theresa Becchetti, a UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor in Stanislaus County. “I'm not counting any chickens before they hatch, though.”