San Francisco’s Natural History

To be published in 2017:
SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY
FROM SAND DUNES TO STREETCARS

This book traces the changes in San Francisco’s landscape from the days of the Ohlone to the present.  What native species were present when only Native Americans lived here? What animal grazed, flew or swam here? In the wild countryside what natural waterways supported life?  What trees, fruits, and flowering plants would the Ohlone have known and used?  And…what happened to all that after the Europeans arrived? It’s a dramatic cascade of changes, filled with disappearance and devastation, ruin, restoration and rebirth.  As the centuries passed and the cityscape developed and changed, so has the natural landscape and the creatures in it, including us–humans, whose values and actions have altered and shaped everything.

In spite of what amounts to obliteration of the old natural environment, many native species survive and even thrive in the modern city.  “Life” here includes wildlife. Contemporary restoration projects mover forward.  Brown Pelicans and coyotes have been joined by new immigrants like collared-doves and eastern gray squirrels.  Forests of introduced trees today host Red-shouldered Hawks and Hooded Orioles. And yet, there is not stasis and never has been. Now comes climate change.  All is flux.

Through this book, I hope to help provide knowledge and perspective on what has gone before, but also what we now face.  To protect and preserve this peninsula, this beautiful piece of our planet, the decisions we humans must make are not just cosmetic, they are matters of life and death.  People must understand what’s happened and what;s happening in order to avoid repeating devastating mistakes of the past, and in order to proceed wisely and humanely into the future. From open space to micro-plastic pollution, the decisions rest with us.

The Ohlone managed the landscape through use of fire:

ohlone boatOHLONE FIREOhlone village sites:Ohlone_villages-mapohlone1ohlone3

Beechey’s map from 1826-7:sf map
First United States map of San Francisco, before Gold Rush.sf1848

1849, Gold Rush boomtown and bay fillearly mapearlysf1early-yerba-buena YB PORT

1851 and the ships abandoned by crews

1851MapSF-1851YB PORT2YB PORT3YB PORT4

Ocean Beach around 1890ob1890photoPlowing the dunes in preparing to create Golden Gate Park, 1870s:Richmond$plowing-dunes-with-horsesLiving with sand after earthquake:sand hillsTheodore Wores’ painting of dunes looking across to Lake Merced in early 1900s, lupine in bloom where houses now stand:San-Francisco-Sand-Dunes-and-Lake-mercedCutting through sand hill to make Second Street near Rincon Point, before 1900.Second-Street-Cut-1869-A12.28.752nSunset District just after WW2:Sunset_dunes_1947

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One Response to “San Francisco’s Natural History”

  1. SAN FRANCISCO NATURAL HISTORY BOOK | ecowise Says:

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