I am publishing my letter to the Albany City Council about the City’s plans to destroy most of the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill. I will publish it in three segments because it is long. The first segment explains why it is not necessary to destroy the forest. The second segment will explain the consequences of destroying the forest. The final segment will explain why it is unlikely that the forest can be replaced by native trees.
Conservation Sense and Nonsense
Albany Hill. Source: Google Earth
December 5, 2022
Albany City Council
1000 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94707
RE: Albany Hill Eucalyptus Project
Dear Albany City Council:
I have a sentimental attachment to the City of Albany because I lived there for 5 years at the beginning of my marriage. We still enjoy regular visits to the city’s beauty spots of Albany Hill and the Albany Bulb, as well as Albany’s great restaurants.
As you know, many public land managers have destroyed eucalyptus trees, but the City of Albany was not planning to destroy the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill until recently. According to the 2012 “Albany Hill Creekside Master Plan,” the eucalyptus forest would be “phased out” slowly over time by removing hazardous trees as necessary to ensure public safety, removing new seedlings where the forest interfaces with native oak woodland, and not replacing trees that die of old age. I expressed my support for this approach to management of the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill on my website, Conservation Sense and Nonsense.
The recently published Bay Nature article about Albany Hill alerted me to Albany’s new plans to destroy most of the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill. I’ve studied the documents about these new plans and I’m writing to express my reservations about the feasibility of the plans. I ask for your consideration of these concerns:
- Is it necessary to destroy the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill?
- What are the consequences of destroying the eucalyptus forest?
- Is it possible to replace the eucalyptus forest with native trees?
All plants and trees in California are showing signs of drought stress and many are dead because of drought stress, especially in unirrigated parks and open spaces. Eucalyptus trees are not immune to drought stress, although they are coping better than some species that require more water, such as redwood trees.
Native Madrone, north side of Cerritos Creek, 2013. Conservation Sense and Nonsense
SAME Native Madrone on north side of Cerritos Creek is now dead, November 2022. Conservation Sense and Nonsense.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, over 160 million native conifers have been killed by bark beetles in California’s Sierra Nevada in the past 10 years. As the climate continues to warm, bark beetles are moving north and west into coastal counties. The worst outbreak has been in Lake County, followed by Napa County. 15-25% of conifers on the east side of Napa Valley are dead. Drought conditions are so extreme that oaks are succumbing to drought stress: “That’s how you know things are kind of really bad, when you see oaks succumb to drought stress.’”
Plans to destroy most eucalyptus on Albany Hill are based on observed die-back of the eucalyptus tree canopy. The trees were studied by Matteo Garbelotto’s pathology lab at UC Berkeley. Their report described the impact of the infection: “First, symptoms observed in Eucalyptus were more markedly limited to the foliage and twigs. Leaf blight and twig necrosis were the only symptoms common across all the six areas surveyed and sampled. Branch and stem cankers, wood discoloration and fungal mats were present, but generally were site-specific or shared by trees only in 2 or 3 cases. Extensive heartrot (i.e. decay of the stem core) was not observed in any tree, although, some wood decay was observed both at the base of stems and on branches.”
The City of Albany’s application for a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy assumes that the eucalyptus trees will never recover: “The scientific analysis…determined the trees were in irreversible decline due to drought stress and resulting vulnerability of pathogen attack…” Since all unirrigated trees and plants are showing the same signs of stress, such a verdict would obligate us to destroy most trees in our open space. Given the remarkable regenerative abilities of eucalyptus, they are more likely to survive than most tree species.
Top of Albany Hill, 2015. Conservation Sense and Nonsense
Top of Albany Hill, November 2022. The tops of the canopy are a little thinner than they were in 2015, but not significantly. Conservation Sense and Nonsense
These symptoms were caused by a fungus that infects most eucalyptus in California. The fungus does not usually cause visible damage. Damage is now visible because the trees are stressed by drought. The situation is similar to the death of native conifers in California; native bark beetles have always been present but are now capable of killing the conifers because the trees are weakened by drought. The difference is that it’s not clear the fungus is capable of killing eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus has remarkable regenerative ability to resprout after it has been cut down or burned. One of the goals of the proposed project is a “fire-resilient” ecosystem, which suggests a landscape that is capable of recovering from the inevitable wildfires in a Mediterranean climate. In fact, eucalyptus is a fire-resilient tree species because it resprouts after it is burned. When it is under stress, it drops mature leaves and recovers by producing epicormic sprouts. Eucalyptus trees on the top of Albany Hill are covered in epicormic sprouts, which indicate the trees are not dead and they are trying to recover. Albany’s plans to destroy most of the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill is based on the mistaken assumption that the trees will eventually die. That is an assumption that is not consistent with the present status of the trees on Albany Hill or with comparable situations in the Bay Area.
Source: Mount Sutro Forest That Was
This picture (see above) was taken in Glen Canyon Park in San Francisco in 2015. The eucalyptus trees were producing epicormic sprouts in response to drought and a few had been girdled by those who want all eucalyptus in San Francisco destroyed. Native plant advocates predicted that the trees would die and they advocated for their destruction. The trees survived.
Part II of my letter to the Albany City Council will be published tomorrow. Part II will describe the negative consequences of destroying the eucalyptus forest on the top of Albany Hill. Please visit again tomorrow for the next segment of my letter to the Albany City Council. Thank you for your visit today.
Update: Shortly after I sent my letter to officials of the City of Albany about their plans to destroy most eucalyptus on Albany Hill, they revised their plans because of two updated reports that were done in November and December 2022. Basically, they no longer plan to destroy most eucalyptus on Albany Hill for two main reasons:
- Eucalyptus trees are the overwintering habitat of monarch butterflies. They cannot be replaced by native trees of short stature without the open canopy that filters sunlight but also provides a windbreak the monarchs need.
- Epicormic sprouts on the eucalyptus trees indicate they are recovering from drought and are expected to survive and eventually replace their canopies.
These are the sources of information that corroborate my brief summary of the main reasons Albany is no longer planning to destroy most eucalyptus trees on Albany Hill:
- Presentation to Albany City Council about Albany Hill by Margot Cunningham on December 8, 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkVPkBX6vcA
- Update on Monarch survey of Albany Hill by Stuart Weiss: https://www.albanyca.org/home/showpublisheddocument/53671/638179437113270000
- Updated fuels management survey by Carol Rice: https://www.albanyca.org/home/showpublisheddocument/53673/638179439800970000
They still intend to remove dead trees to reduce fuel loads, to which I have no objection. Some dead eucalyptus may be replaced with more drought tolerant species of eucalyptus from Western Australia.
To be clear, I don’t think my letter about their original plans for Albany Hill were influential in their revising their plans. My letter is consistent with the advice they received from an ecologist with expertise in monarch butterflies and a consultant in fuels management. Credit belongs to the preference of monarchs for eucalyptus and to eucalyptus for being indestructible.
8 thoughts on “Part I: Appealing to the City of Albany to save its eucalyptus forest”
That madrone in the photo you included looks like Arbutus ‘Marina’ (Arbutus andrachne x canariensis, from the Mediterranean region), not Arbutus menziesii. The flower clusters are pink. Arbutus menziesii flowers are white. You know all that, right? hmmm? 😉
Check on that.
Scott Jones plantscomprehensive.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org office: 619 223 5054 mobile: 619 302 1550
Thanks. You are probably right. Arbutus ‘Marina’ is a cultivar hybrid of “uncertain parentage,” according to Sunset Western Garden. Flowers of A. menziesii are “white to pinkish,” according to Sunset. They are in the same genus and clearly closely related. The tree was planted by the volunteers of Friends of Five Creeks, who plant exclusively native plants. Clearly they think of ‘Marina’ as a native tree. For all intents and purposes, it is.
Welcome,… and, maybe it’s Arbutus unedo ancestry in combination with A. andrachne,….. and/or A. canariensis. San Marcos Growers points out A. unedo x A. andrachne ancestry.
Scott Jones plantscomprehensive.com email: email@example.com office: 619 223 5054 mobile: 619 302 1550
Thank you so much for so brilliantly defending our trees, the animals who need them, and all nature. It’s horrifying how the killing of trees and other plants continue by fanatical nativists, even though many native trees are clearly not doing well, while Eucalyptus are so much more suited to dealing with drought, parasites, etc. And they help protect against fire. We need every tree we can get. But money is so much more worshipped than nature.
I forgot to add that large nesting raptors prefer and need Eucalyptus since they are the most protective for the eagle and hawk fledglings when learning to fly because of their wide, open canopy, with less branches to injure themselves on than the lower, denser native trees. And the height is also protective.
Stephen Rottenborn studied the nesting choices and reproductive success of red-shouldered hawks in Santa Clara County. He found that the hawks prefer eucalypts to native trees and that their nests were more successful when they made that choice. He attributes that greater success rate to the fact that eucalypts are “large, sturdy trees” that provide “greater stability and protective cover.” Stephen Rottenborn, “Nest-Site selection and reproductive success of urban red-shouldered hawks in Central California,” J. Raptor Research, 34(1):18-25
“Fourteen of 27 nests in 1994 and 38 of 58 nests in 1995 were in exotic trees, predominantly eucalyptus. Nesting and fledging success were higher in exotic trees than in native trees in both years, owing in part to greater stability and protective cover. Most nest trees in upland areas were exotics, and even in riparian habitats, where tall native cottonwoods and sycamores were available, Red-shouldered Hawks selected eucalyptus more often than expected based on their availability. Of the habitat and nest-tree variables measured at each nest, only nest-tree height and diameter were significantly associated with reproductive success, suggesting that large, sturdy trees provided the best nest sites. Red-shouldered Hawk populations in the study area have likely benefited from the planting of exotic eucalyptus and fan palms.”