Removing and burning plants may seem antithetical to land stewardship, but this is just what ACR’s land stewards and resource ecologists are up to this summer. The varied stewardship strategies employed across the preserves share the same goal: increasing the diversity of species for thriving ecosystems.
Left: An area of Martin Griffin Preserve once overrun by Cape-ivy in 2002. Right: The same area at present day, now host to a mix of Elk Clovers, horsetails, native ferns, and blackberries.
Goats were brought in to graze the Cape-ivy in 1999. This wasn’t ultimately a great choice for managing this weed — goats do not eat the extensive root network which will readily re-sprout.
Fire and grazing for good
Land Steward Jim Jensen looks out over an area of Cypress Grove Research Center that is part of the proposed prescribed disturbance plan.
Meanwhile, at Cypress Grove Research Center, Land Steward Jim Jensen is thinking about the past, present, and future, and asking, “How do we best mimic the disturbances that would have happened here a long time ago?” Historically, large herds of elk and deer were moving up and down the coast and Coast Miwok were likely using fire to maintain ecosystem health. Without these disturbances, the proliferation of coyote brush and non-native grasses has caused native grasslands to disappear.
“It’s not the diverse site it would be if it was more open, and had some disturbance going through there from time to time that would allow other species to come up and flower for things like pollinators, birds…if it’s just a monoculture, you’re not going to see the diverse amount of species benefit from it,” explains Jensen. Plans are underway for both controlled burning and targeted grazing at the research center, to determine which disturbances are realistic and effective. In addition to the goal of reducing non-native species and promoting more native species, burning or grazing could provide a buffer in the event of a wildfire to help protect human infrastructure.
Additional stewardship efforts this summer include the successful controlled burn at Modini Preserve last June — the first in 50 years, planning for a possible controlled burn at Toms Point this fall, and developing new partnerships with California Central Coast Joint Venture and California Landscape Stewardship Network.