Invasive Plant Removal and Wetland Restoration Neighboring the Sespe Cienaga (2020 – ongoing)
The Santa Clara River Conservancy is conducting non-native invasive plant removal and associated biological surveys on a 25-acre portion of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) north Shiells Property, neighboring the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Sespe Cienaga project site. The work is consistent with The Nature Conservancy’s objectives for riparian habitat restoration and conservation property management. SCRC was awarded contract funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to partially fund the project, and TNC is providing cost sharing for expenses not covered by the NRCS award.
SCRC performed initial mapping and assessment of target invasive species within the project area, with the goal of controlling at least 5 species: giant reed (Arundo donax), perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium), castor bean (Ricinus communis), tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), and salt cedar (Tamarix sp). A multi-year treatment plan including maps and schedules was developed by SCRC for TNC and NRCS, and progress will be assessed using repeated UAV imagery. TNC is providing access to the project site through legal easements or by permission from neighboring landowners.
Looking across the complex wetland features of the north Shiell’s project site.
Arundo Removal and Riparian Restoration Near Santa Paula, Proposition 1 Funded (2020 – ongoing)
The Nature Conservancy has teamed with the Santa Clara River Conservancy and the University of California, Santa Barbara, to implement 250 acres of habitat restoration and enhancement on the Santa Clara River floodplain near the city of Santa Paula. The project involves developing and implementing a plan for restoring these riparian habitats, with a focus on the removal of invasive giant reed (Arundo donax). The site is located on the The Nature Conservancy and the Friends of the Santa Clara River respective properties, described as the Hedrick Ranch Natural Area (HRNA), Taylor, Best and USC properties. SCRC’s primary role, working with project partners, is to ensure environmental compliance with all restoration efforts, monitor biological resources across the project area and within all work activities, and conduct strategic restoration treatments.
Top: Looking across the complex riparian and wetland resources of the HRNA and neighboring properties. Bottom: Looking upstream along the river bottom at dense giant reed and scattered riparian trees.
Arundo Removal at the Sespe Cienaga, Proposition 1 Funded (2019 – ongoing)
Working with University of California, Santa Barbara, this project will remove 175 acres of giant reed (Arundo donax) from an extremely important portion of the Santa Clara River in Fillmore, initiating the restoration of a native ecosystem at the site of a critical historic wetland. The primary objective of this project is to protect and enhance native riparian woodlands and associated wildlife through restoration efforts. This area of mature cottonwood-willow forest is part of a larger property owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, for long-term protection and enhancement of regionally-threatened habitat and wildlife species, including multiple listed and candidate species. The woodland has been severely degraded by dense infestation of giant reed, and faces risk of catastrophic loss from giant reed-fueled wildfire that could eliminate fire-intolerant native forest species, as well as be carried into adjacent agricultural lands and coastal sage scrub.
Giant reed removal is the first phase of implementation that will re-create a fully functioning riparian ecosystem necessary for native species, while decreasing the risk from detrimental fires. Removal will also allow native vegetation to recover and sequester excessive nutrients discharged from the neighboring Fillmore Fish Hatchery and nearby agricultural areas, thereby improving water quality before it enters the main channel of the Santa Clara River. Increased water availability for sensitive terrestrial and aquatic species is expected, as research indicates giant reed uses approximately 3-4 times more water than native species. These changes will be long lasting and will contribute to resilience of the ecosystem along the Santa Clara River in the face of potential climate change and natural disturbances.An overview of the Sespe Cienaga project site including historic channelized watercress and agricultural fields, the Fillmore Fish Hatchery (photo right), and very dense monotypic giant reed growth neighboring river scrub habitats (photo left).
Arundo Removal and Riparian Restoration Near Santa Paula, Proposition 84 Funded (2017 – ongoing)
SCRC has partnered with California Trout to remove 41 acres of giant reed (Arundo donax) from riparian areas adjacent to the Santa Clara River on Hedrick Ranch Nature Area (HRNA) and Hedrick Ranch Property (HRP), adjacent to Santa Paula, CA. Starting in 2017, this project has included volunteers, the California Conservation Corps, numerous contractors, and in-house staff to perform initial giant reed removal and follow up treatments and vegetation monitoring to evaluate success metrics and inform adaptive management.
Top: Mowing giant reed on HRNA. Bottom: Young willows, cottonwoods, and mulefat growing among dead arundo canes after 3 years of treatment.
Wetlands Recovery Project – Sespe Cienaga Habitat Restoration Project (2017-2019)
SCRC has been contracted by Friends of the Santa Clara River to restore 7 – 8 acres of riparian habitat outside of the entrance of the Fillmore Fish Hatchery, which is owned by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Project elements include: controlling non-native plants, revegetation with native riparian plants, community engagement, creating an interpretive trail, and biological monitoring. SCRC has worked with students from Briggs School in Santa Paula, Girl Scout Troop 60532, and has hosted several volunteer events.
A student from Briggs School planting sedges in the perennial wetland.
Volunteer working together to install native plants.
A student from Briggs School water the young plants.
The interpretive garden is open to the public. California native plants line the trail and give visitors a chance to observe their beauty up-close. Brochures are available at the kiosk, both in English and Spanish, so that visitors can learn about the native plants as they stroll through the garden.
The beginning stages of the nature trail and garden built by volunteers and students (Photo by Sebastian Walton).
A year later, the garden is filling in and the native plants are thriving.
Girls Scouts from Troop 60532 constructed a kiosk for the interpretive garden (Photo by Olivia Long).
Volunteers removing invasive weeds.
Volunteers interacting in the native plant garden.
Volunteers installing a native plant.