Using photography, old maps, and any scrap of archival information they can find, Robin Grossinger and his colleagues at the Historical Ecology Program of the San Francisco Estuary Institute piece together what San Francisco Bay Area landscapes used to look like. In trying to solve climate change and other environmental issues, can we calibrate ourselves better with the california landscape better than we currently do. As much as we have collectively changed the Californian landscape, especially in the last 60 years, the landscape has never really gone away.
From the distribution of oaks and other trees in the bay area, to interior marshes, to beaches in the bay and the way creeks flow down into the South Bay, it seems like there is things that we could do a lot better.
The value of seeking to return areas to their former state is not from a sense that “more natural” is better, but that it can be a pragmatic and worth doing from a cost savings perspective, working with the landscape rather than fighting to change it. Restoring wetlands which could help with flood control, not trying to turn intermittent streams into perennial ones that we constantly have to dredge, and for which we have to import water to keep running.
Of course, the problems are now complicated by our growth and how we have changed things. One example of the complexities that we have created is the steelhead salmon runs that go up rivers in the South Bay… Salmon that can no longer return to the delta partly because so much water is pumped away from it — to ironically feed these kind of rivers.
We can hope that the work that Robin and his colleagues are doing can help lead us to a better path to living within our environment.