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Title: Historical oak woodland detected through Armillaria mellea damage in fruit orchards

Author: Brown, Alan K.;

Date: 2002

Source: In: Standiford, Richard B., et al, tech. editor. Proceedings of the Fifth Symposium on Oak Woodlands: Oaks in California's Challenging Landscape. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-184, Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: 651-661

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: The wholesale destruction of oak woodland by North American settlers in the Santa Clara Valley is attested in early county histories and other sources. Early plats and field notes by government and private surveyors, which are the most useful kind of sources as to the distribution and extent of the lost oak groves, still leave serious gaps in our knowledge. A further source of information is the dangerous legacy left behind in the soil by the original groves when they were chopped and the roots left to rot. The honey fungus or oak root fungus (Armillaria mellea) became a serious problem to the orchard industry in the early twentieth century. Upon vertical aerial photography made at a time when the valley was almost entirely under mature prune and apricot orchard cultivation, a sample 144-km2 strip was chosen that shows clear cases of highly localized patterns of weakening of the fruit trees, typically in rings and circles of various sizes and ages. These patterns, and the percentages of the surface that they occupy within 25-ha blocks, were plotted on two maps along with any indications of the presence of former oak woodland and/or oak savanna that could be found in historical records. These graphic comparisons between two sorts of information—visible fungus damage and historical evidence of presence of oak trees—give a generally consistent picture that seems useful for filling in gaps in our information, even though a number of precautions have to be observed and some further verification is possible. Further comparisons with soil types or other conditions are also possible, and for similar landscapes, such a use of historical aerial photography may be helpful in delineating the former oak woodlands.

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Brown, Alan K. 2002. Historical oak woodland detected through Armillaria mellea damage in fruit orchards. In: Standiford, Richard B., et al, tech. editor. Proceedings of the Fifth Symposium on Oak Woodlands: Oaks in California''s Challenging Landscape. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-184, Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: 651-661

 


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