Hundreds of acres of oak woodland were drowned when the Klamath dams and subsequent reservoirs were created. So replanting tens of thousands of oak trees is a high priority after the four lower Klamath Dams come out and thousands of acres of now-submerged land are drained. Gwen Santos, Lead Ecologist for the Klamath River Renewal Project, has been part of an intensive effort to collect acorns for this replanting effort. Gwen and her team realized that 2023 has turned out to be a banner year for acorns – which is good news for next year’s planting efforts! Take a minute to watch this video from Gwen, who serves as the Director of Ecology & Regulatory for the Western Region at Resource Environmental Solutions (RES), the contractor spearheading the restoration efforts related to dam removal.
Some background: The phenomenon of periodic bumper crops of acorns is called a “mast year.” Mast is the collective term for all the fruits or nuts that a species of tree or shrub produce. Every several years, all the oak trees in a region synchronize to produce a massive volume of acorns in the fall. This cycle is believed to be part of an ingenious evolutionary strategy, whereby the oaks produce more food than foraging wildlife (such as scrub jays, acorn woodpeckers, deer, squirrels, mice, and black bears) can possibly eat, thus ensuring enough are left over to grow into trees. The drastic variation from year to year prevents the foragers from matching their populations to the volume of acorn production.