Planting for Resilience

Napa County

By Cariad Hayes Thronson

Travel brochures for Napa County almost universally feature the same images: a valley floor carpeted with vineyards, nestled between hillsides dotted with spreading valley oaks. As climate change brings hotter days — and more of them — to the county, these twin pillars of the landscape, grapevines and oak trees, are both challenged by it and central to local resilience strategies. A climate action plan has been in the works since 2011 but has yet to be adopted — a delay some local activists attribute to pushback from the powerful agriculture industry. Meanwhile, other entities are spearheading efforts to adapt to the new climate reality, centering on the county’s iconic flora.  Efforts to support oaks continue. Hotter, drier weather will likely make Napa’s environment less hospitable to valley oaks, which require a lot of water and prefer cooler temperatures. “Oak sequester a tremendous amount of carbon, improving the soil’s ability to hold moisture, aiding groundwater recharge, while their huge canopies provide shade,” says the Resource Conservation District’s Frances Knapczyk. Of course, oak trees can only do so much to mitigate the local effects of climate change, and those effects — drought, heat, and wildfire — are creating an unnerving threat to the valley’s other iconic flora: grapevines. “Right now Napa is in a sweet spot for growing premium wine grapes,” says local climate activist Jim Wilson. “But it’s well known that in a couple of generations it won’t be.”

Read More

Previous Estuary News Stories

Napa’s Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, Pearl

Locals Trade Vines for Resilient Rivers, Marsh 2018


Reoaking the North Bay, San Francisco Estuary Institute

Related Content

About the author

Cariad Hayes Thronson covers legal and political issues for Estuary News. She has served on the staffs of several national publications, including The American Lawyer. She is a long-time contributor to Estuary News, and some years ago served as its assistant editor. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two children.

Related Posts

blue whale feeding

Blue Whales Consume Microplastic Particles by the Billion

The age of humans, termed the Anthropocene, might just as well be considered the age of plastic. The dangerously durable material, made ubiquitous in products and packaging through the late 20th century, has inundated our planet’s environment. Today, miniscule plastic pieces are present in deep-ocean sediment, high-mountain snow and just about...

Sharing Science Across Barriers

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, an urban landscape of metal and concrete, Miguel Mendez had limited access to open spaces, and always dreamed of traveling. Yet there in the city, he got his first introduction to environmentalism. “In some of the places I lived in Chicago, environmental activists are...

The Long Haul to Restore San Joaquin Spring-Run Chinook

When a team of fish biologists was tasked with restoring spring-run Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River in 2006, none of them quite knew where to begin. The thirsty farms that crowd the river on both sides had taken almost all the water out of it most years since...