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

American Avocet on managed, former salt ponds in the South Bay. Photo: Roopak Bhatt, USGS

One-of-a-Kind Stories

Our magazine’s media motto for many years has been “Where there’s an estuary, there’s a crowd.” The San Francisco Estuary is a place where people, wildlife, and commerce congregate, and where watersheds, rivers and the ocean meet and mix, creating a place of unusual diversity. In choosing to tell the...
dam spillway oroville

Supplying Water

Ever since the state and federal water projects were built in the 1930s and 1940s, California has captured snowmelt in foothill reservoirs, and moved the fresh water from dam releases and river outflows to parched parts of the state via aqueducts hundreds of miles long. A convoluted system of ancient...

Tackling Pollution

Though the Clean Water Act did an amazing job of reducing wastewater and stormwater pollution of the San Francisco Estuary, some contaminants remain thorny problems.  Legacy pollutants like mercury washed into the watershed from upstream gold mining, PCBs from old industrial sites, and selenium from agricultural drainage in the San...