Havoc and Hope

How recent storms reinforce our climate-ready landscape initiatives

Image of UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden staff clearing a felled Guadalupe Island pine from the collection.

Campus and California Storm Damage Press

Wet and Windy Start to Winter Quarter 1/10/23 UC Davis News
Storm Damage Updates 1/8/23 UC Davis News
Wild Weather Swings Are Robbing California of Its Trees 1/6/23 New York Times (includes staff quote)
Trees Fall in Waves of Wind 1/5/23 UC Davis News
Storm Toll Includes 24 Trees Down at UCD
1/3/23 Davis Enterprise 

Rough start, but road and paths open

This winter has been a rough one for our campus landscapes. December brought atmospheric rivers and run-of-the-mill storms, saturating the ground. Then, on New Year’s Eve, a bomb cyclone swept through this area, wreaking havoc with its easterly winds (different from the southern winds the trees grew up experiencing), felling most of the 75 mature trees lost throughout campus and the Arboretum over the last couple of weeks. While things may look a little different next time you visit, all our main roads pathways are now open. 

The cleanup effort undertaken by all of the teams in the Arboretum and Public Garden – Grounds and Landscape Services, Putah Creek Riparian Reserve and the Arboretum – is massive, includes outside contractors, and will take months to recover from. Considering our campus urban forest tree population is close to 20,000, the losses might have been much worse. 

Urban Forest Management

While good (and bad) luck always has a hand, there's a lot more than chance involved in the stewardship of such a large landscape.

The Arboretum and Public Garden staff conducts regular tree health assessments, updates the campus's tree database and uses this data to prioritize the type and timing of future maintenance. They support the Campus Tree Renewal program, remove trees in danger of jeopardizing community safety and respond to extreme weather events.

Planning for a Climate-ready Future

While the weather-related havoc wrought across campus is disheartening, it is also important to understand that our campus is not just reacting, we planned for this uncertain future and are already taking action.

As the result of a partnership between the Arboretum and Public Garden and UC Davis Campus Planning, our university has launched an initiative to transition our campus landscapes to be climate-ready. The Living Landscape Adaptation Plan includes strategies to transition our tree canopy, enhance the biodiversity of our landscapes, secure sustainable water sources, support our communities health and well-being, and the best of all, engage our students and community.

Taking Action Now

These recent losses are devastating, but reinforce the importance of our work to select and grow trees that will be resilient in our changing climate. Last year students in the Arboretum and Public Garden's Learning by Leading™ Urban Tree Stewardship program, together with multiple student and community volunteers, planted over 200 trees and have plans to plant hundreds more. Other Learning by Leading teams are helping design, maintain or transition campus landscapes to enhance biodiversity and still others are growing climate-ready plants to provide for the community at large, and so much more. 

There’s hope ahead!

If you'd like to support the ongoing work to care for the campus tree canopy and make it more sustainable for the future, give to support the Arboretum and Public Garden's Learning by Leading program and/or the UC Davis Oaks fund

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