Land Management

uc davis campus vineyard aerial photo

With 5,300 acres UC Davis is the largest of all the university of California campuses.

The Davis campus includes 14,000 trees of more than 100 species. This urban forest canopy covers one-fifth of the Davis campus area, and helps provide ecosystem services such as shade and thus electricity savings, erosion control, pollution prevention, carbon sequestration, aesthetic and other benefits. Davis also has 300 acres of lawns, 50 acres of shrubs and 25 acres of groundcover.

Teaching and research fields comprise almost 3,000 acres and represent the largest area of campus. Most of the orchards, vineyards, croplands and pastures are located in South Campus, West Campus and Russell Ranch. The Student Farm and the vineyards near the Robert Mondavi Institute are the only agricultural lands still maintained within the core campus.
 

Sustainability Goals Progress Campus Actions Resources


Sustainability Goals

  • Water Conservation: Please visit our Water section to learn about water conservation goals that apply to landscape irrigation. 

  • Habitat Protection: Please review the relevant Long Range Development Plan Environmental Impact Report for the Davis or Health campuses.  

  • Herbicide Management: A working group was convened in 2021 across the UC to discuss possible goals. 


Progress

  • Water Conservation: Please visit our Water section to learn about water conservation goals that apply to landscape irrigation. 

  • Habitat Protection: Please review Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program reports produced by UC Davis Environmental Planning


Campus Actions

Today, UC Davis campuses are designed and managed, to the greatest extent possible, as models of regionally appropriate plant selection and garden design. The landscape supports campus sustainability goals in the following ways.

  • Adapting the Living Landscape – At its founding in 1906, the Davis campus was open land. Most what's growing here now was planted. Even though UC Davis has led the way in sustainable landscape design, we must admit that our campus also reflects some less sustainable landscape design trends of the last century, including the use of plant species that are susceptible to our rising temperatures. These represent a special concern in light of climate change.

    Our campus is developing a 70-year Living Landscape Adaptation Plan that will enable UC Davis to transition its landscapes to climate-ready designs that protect the long-term health of the landscapes while preserving our unique campus identity, heritage and mission. When completed, this plan will be made available on the Office of Campus Planning website.
  • Conserving Water in the Landscape – On the Davis campus, approximately 15% of campus water use is for landscape irrigation and 36% for agricultural irrigation. The vast majority of landscape water is applied to turf areas. With half of campus water resources going into the landscape, efficient irrigation is critical. Water conservation measures in the campus landscape include:
    • Landscape design. Valley-wise landscapes are the standard for new construction, and many areas of campus are being converted to low-water landscapes, including replacing grass along median strips, sidewalks and other non-recreational areas. 
    • Irrigation Infrastructure. Campus irrigation systems include subsurface turf irrigation, drip irrigation and spray heads with patterns that reduce or eliminate overspray. Preventive maintenance ensures they operate as efficiently as possible. Rainwater is collected via pervious concrete that reduces runoff.
    • Smart Irrigation. In the past, irrigation specialists manually adjusted the water system when it rained, amounting to more than 900 hours of work per year. Today, UC Davis uses automated and centralized landscape irrigation controls that respond to the weather. Every night, a central weather station sends updated data about soil, plant type, rainfall, temperature, wind speed and humidity to computerized water controllers across campus. Watering schedules are adjusted automatically. The system saves the campus an estimated 49 million gallons of water per year, almost one-third of total utility water used on campus.
    • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch is applied heavily to prevent rapid evaporation in hot, dry weather. Mulch has the added benefits of weed suppression and adding nutrients to the soil.
  • Sequestering Carbon – The trees, lawns, shrubs and groundcover on the Davis campus are estimated to sequester approximately 640 tons of carbon per year. Research efforts are under way to better understand how much carbon is sequestered and released on campus lands, and sequestration may play a larger role in meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals going forward.

    The Russell Ranch Habitat Mitigation Area is planted in native bunch grasses. In addition to providing habitat for threatened species, they also recapture carbon. California native grasses have been shown to have better carbon cycling attributes than non-native species.
  • Protecting Habitat  – Portions of the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve are set aside as habitat mitigation areas for Swainson's Hawk, Burrowing Owl, and Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB). UC Davis has located the mitigation areas on-campus, creating a place for teaching and research on restored ecosystems.
  • Researching and Teaching – Since becoming The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, virtually every square inch of campus is a site for education and applied research. Specific teaching and research landscapes include:
    • The campus vineyard, at the south campus entrance on Old Davis Road. Viticulture and Enology students plant, establish and train vineyards on a variety of trellis/training systems. The vineyard also has four acres of grape production including Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Mataro, Carignane, Petit Sirah and Alicante Bouschet. Its proximity to the Robert Mondavi Institute complex enables all of the viticulture teaching to be done within steps of classrooms and labs.
    • At the Student Farm, students learn from experienced field-based educators and from their peers and come to understand sustainability through the soils, crops, climate and community relationships.
    • Shields Oak Grove at the UC Davis Arboretum has been recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium as having national significance, for having the greatest taxonomic diversity of any other oak grove. The grove serves as a scientific resource for the study of genetic, biochemical and ecological traits of oaks.

Resources

These documents provide detailed descriptions of current and future campus land use: