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Archive for the ‘Land Management’ Category

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A view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has produced a video called Restoring California’s Great Estuary that explains the EcoRestore initiative which is one of the big, state-wide efforts that is aiming at restoring some fairly significant amounts of habitat to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Being that I work for a State agency called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, this is something that I pay a lot of attention to. But there are a lot of reasons that everyone who lives in California, and many people who live outside the state, should also be interested in this video. A large portion of the people, farms, ranches, and industries in California rely, at least in part, on water from the Delta. That fact alone should make efforts like

Also, I work with many of the people featured in this video including my boss, Campbell Ingram. Seeing talented people that I know talking about an issue that I care about makes this video that much more appealing to me, but that probably won’t have much impact on you.

Enjoy!

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A partnership between the World Wildlife Fund and Knorr Foods has just released a list of 50 foods that we can all utilize to diversify our diets and reduce our impacts on the planet.

Future50FoodsThe report, called Future 50 Foods, is a compilation of foods of many different types (grains, root vegetables, fruit, etc.). These foods were selected because each one strikes a healthy balance of being high in nutrition, have a low environmental impact, good availability and price, and tasty!

At present, a huge portion of the human population of the world (including developed and undeveloped countries) gets about 60% of all our calories from just 3 plant species (rice, corn, wheat). That means that a huge amount of effort goes into growing all that rice, corn, and wheat. That effort often results in monocultures where a single crop is grown and covers an enormous track of land.

Instead of continuing to grow just these small numbers of species, and to start relying on a broader suite of food sources, we all can start eating more diversely. And that is where this list of foods to eat to improve the future of the planet comes in. It is a guide to the foods that we can all branch out to start eating.

Personally, I am pretty curious about the foods on this list. Some of them I have never heard of before such as Marama Beans from the Kalahari Desert or Moringa from Asia. Many others I have eaten and enjoyed such as Wakame Seaweed and Black Salsify but they certainly do not make up any significant part of my diet.

It is worth noting that there are no animals on the list of 50 foods. Eating animals is very costly, in terms of environmental impact, and so none make the list of high priority food that humans around the world should start eating more of.

So, go out and diversify your palette, explore some new foods, and help to change our food industry for a healthier planet!

Let me know if you try any of the foods on this list in the comments below. What did you try? How did you prepare it? where did you buy it? What did you think?

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The management of wild horses and burros is a topic that I have felt strongly about for a long time. I can sympathize with those who see the horse as a symbol of the American West, of independence, and of strength and beauty. However, that sympathy does not last very long or go very far.

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A group of wild horses in Nevada.

The wild horse and the wild burro in North America are invasive species. Plain and simple. As such, it is my opinion that those invasive populations should be controlled so as not to negatively impact native species or the overall health of the ecosystem.

The Wildlife Society has recently produced a short documentary called “Horse Rich & Dirt Poor” that lays out some of the issues surrounding horse management in the USA.

One of the points that the film makes is that under current policies and procedures, everyone (native mammals, native birds, native fish, native plants, the land itself, and even the wild horses and burros) is loosing.

Give this 15 minute video a watch, and think about where we are. Where do you think we should go? How do you think we should get there?

 

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A study was published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on the effects that invasive species have on other species around the globe. The study is by Tim M. Blackburn, Celine Bellard, and Anthony Ricciardi, and it can be found here.

The main thrust of the paper is that invasive species of plants and animals have been found to have a significant impact on the extinction of other plants and animals all around the world. Specifically, 25% of the plant species that have gone extinct in recent years have been the result, at least in part, of invasive species. Additionally, 33% of the animal species that have gone extinct in recent years have been the result, at least in part, of invasive species.

These numbers are pretty compelling components to the story of just how damaging invasive species can be. It is part of the reason I find working on invasive species control in California to be rewarding.

I am currently working on the control of Arundo (which is a large invasive reed), water primrose (an invasive aquatic plant), Phragmites (which is another invasive reed that is a bit smaller than Arundo), and Nutria (which is a 20 pound semi-aquatic rodent). Each of these species pose unique threats to the native species of California and to many other aspects of the ecosystem as well.

Hopefully, protocols can be developed to stop invasive species before they contribute even more extinctions!

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Managed retreat is a term that I have been encountering more and more frequently in the course of my work over the last few years. It is the idea that in response to sea-level rise, humans will be forced to move away from coastlines, and this can happen in a chaotic way, or a managed way, but it will happen.

Imperial Beach, CA (Photo by JC Monge).

As the atmosphere and oceans warm, sea-level will rise. This is happening now, with a rise of about a half-an-inch each decade, and this number will likely increase over time. Globally, sea-level is predicted to rise by 1.6 to 6.5 feet in the next 100 years. This does not sound like much to a lot of people. What people forget to think about is that the sea does not stay still. Storm surges and king tides account for a large portion of the damage that seas cause to cities. These surges and tides will be much more severe if the sea they are starting from is one to 6 feet higher than it is right now. Imagine some of the footage we have all seen from hurricanes as they sweep across Florida or Texas or Puerto Rice. In those clips reporters are clad in rain gear with trees bending wildly behind them as the wind and rain hammers away. Now add a extra 6 vertical feet of water! The effects then will be much more disastrous than the effects now, and now they are bad enough.

And these effects will be felt all around the world. A large percentage of people around the globe live near coasts. So raising seas will effect a huge number of people. This has the potential to cause social chaos as people struggle to move inland in disorderly and inefficient ways.

To address this impending threat, some communities, cities, and even states are beginning to consider how to move away from the sea.

It is a herculean problem. How can we move a whole city even a short distance? Even a small city is just not portable. However, they are going to have to be, and the more we as a society can think about how to accomplish these moves, the better off we will all be when they have to happen. And that is where managed retreat comes in.

The High Country News published an article on how the small city of Imperial Beach in southern California is starting to think about managed retreat. Even for this small city to move a few blocks away from the ocean will be a huge undertaking. The article is a sobering read, but well worth it since it is something that is gong to effect every person on earth who is alive in 2050 or 2100.

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This is a link to a blog post I wrote for the UC Davis-USDA Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project website. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (the agency I work for) gets funding from the USDA to control Arundo infestations in the Delta.

Arundo (which I have written about previously here) is a highly invasive plant that causes bank destabilization, increased fire hazard, increased water use, and excludes native plants and animals. The Delta Conservancy has been coordinating with a the Sonoma Ecology Center and the USDA to apply treatments of herbicides and/or insects that are specific Arundo parasites to eliminate Arundo from as much of the Delta as possible. This work began last summer/fall at the Brannan Island State Recreation Area, as site that is owned by California State Parks and which has a lot of Arundo.

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for just over two years, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations can submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals, in the fall of 2016 we received our second round of proposals, and we are currently reviewing our third round of proposals as I write this (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2018, and 2019). I am very involved in reviewing these proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements, two (-and-a-half) times. This is the exciting part because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for two of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals and all four from the 2016 batch. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. The most recent grant funded project to be signed is one called the Restoration of Priority Freshwater Wetlands for Endangered Species at the Cosumnes River Preserve Project. It will restore about 110 acres of high priority wetlands in the Horseshoe Lake unit of the Cosumnes River Preserve. The main focus is to remove water primrose from Horseshoe Lake and build up the banks of the lake to provide habitat for Giant Garter Snakes. It is the one I will focus on in this post.

The Restoration of Priority Freshwater Wetlands for Endangered Species at the Cosumnes River Preserve Project was proposed by a the Sacramento County Parks Department. The site of the project is an area in an area of the Cosumnes River Preserve just east of CA-99 and a little north of Galt, CA in Sacramento County. This area of the Preserve is close to one of the largest remaining populations of Giant Garter Snake, which is a federal and state listed endangered species. The project area also has a large egret, heron, and cormorant rookery, and also provides habitat for many other species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

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Project site in the Cosumnes River Preserve showing extensive growth of invasive Water Primrose.

The project will remove thousands of pounds an invasive, aquatic plant called Water Primrose (Ludwigia peploides) that is currently clogging the lake and surrounding waterways. By removing this vegetation, a large area of open water will be created that will improved the water quality and habitat quality of the lake. All the removed plant mass will be piled along parts of the lake sides. This will decompose and increase the elevation of these areas making them into uplands habitat that Giant Garter Snakes need for when they go dormant in winter. Some of these raised areas will also be planted with oak tree to increase the area of the rookery.

Over the next three years that the Delta Conservancy will be funding this project. It will be amazing to see this habitat come into being.

PrintThis project has a budget of $942,631 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

As of this writing, we are in the midst of our third cycle of proposals, and are discussing the fourth. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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IMG_20170829_091735[1]Along with about 125 other scientists, researchers, and managers, I spent most of last Tuesday attending the Delta Invasive Species Symposium hosted on the U.C. Davis campus and organized by the Delta Stewardship Council, U.C. Davis, and the Delta Interagency Invasive Species Coordination Team.

It was a very interesting symposium that included talks, posters, and a terrific panel discussion. Topics covered a wide range of invasive species ecology, invasive species management techniques and efforts, the effects of invasive species on natural communities and human society, and how invasive species are likely to be effected by climate change.

There are a huge number of invasive species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This list includes plants like Water Hyacinth and Giant Reed, vertebrates such as Northern Watersnake and Stripped Bass, invertebrates like Asian Gypsy Moth and Spotted Lanternfly, and many many others.

Dealing with the effects of these invasive species, and attempting to control their populations, costs millions of dollar every year.

Given these high costs, prevention is without doubt the best technique when dealing with invasive species. The costs of measures that are undertaken to prevent an invasive species from entering an area, the Delta for example, are certainly going to be less than the costs of controlling that species once it becomes established. Many efforts are being undertaken in the Delta to keep new invaders from entering. This is especially important because many invasive species are currently found near the Delta, that could become huge problems in they show enter the Delta system. Nutria are an example of this. The Nutria is a large rodent native to South America. A population was established in the southern Sierra in the hope of crating a source for furs, but the furs of Nutria did not catch on in the market place, and the effort was abandoned. The Nutria that had been released were hunted and almost completely exterminated in the 1960s, but small numbers have started showing up along the Merced and  San Joaquin Rivers. If those populations are allowed to grow and spread, they will cause massive damage to the Delta ecosystem because of the feeding habits of Nutria which can leave extensive tracts of wetlands denuded of vegetation.

The next best technique is early detection and rapid responses. If an invasive species is expanding its geographic range, having lots of observations of where it is occurring is immensely useful. Knowing exactly where, when, and how many individuals are out there can mean that, with a swift response, it may be possible to control their numbers. This is where the value of citizen science networks is particularly dramatic. There is no way that professional biologists will be able to cover a whole area at small enough detail and high enough frequency to realistically be able to watch for any and all invasive species. But with online databases and citizen scientists out in the field, there may be enough eyes to pick up on new invasive arrivals. Projects like eBird, Calflora, and others allow individuals to add their observations together to form an enormous and very thorough observation net.

One reason that tracking and responding to invasive species is so important is the effects that they have on native species. Competition with invasive species is the second most common reason for species to be placed on the Endangered Species List (behind habitat destruction), and invasive species interactions are a contributing factor for listing 1/3 of all listed species!

And it is only going to get worse. Global climate change is opening up large areas that used to be unlikely places for invasive species to get a foothold. Alaska is just such a place. Historically, places like Alaska had harsh enough environments that, generally speaking, only species that had evolved with those conditions did well. With the warming climate, these harsh conditions that have protected such areas are becoming less harsh. Elodea is an aquatic plant that is often considered an invasive due its rapid growth rates and its tendency to exclude other species from an area. Historically, it was not found in Alaska at all, but in the past few years has started to appear in parts of the state.

All in all, I learned a lot at the symposium. There are definitely a lot of threats and dangers posed by invasive species in the Delta and many more from invasive species that are not currently present should they enter the Delta ecosystem. But there is also so much that can and is being done by dedicated professionals in the field, and also by communities and citizen scientists who care about the natural ecosystems in which we all live.

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I wrote previously about the award that the Delta Conservancy received from the American Carbon Registry for developing a carbon methodology for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but I did not go into any real detail on what the carbon methodology was.

Delta Stewardship Council logoThe Delta Stewardship Council, which is another state agency focused on the Delta, produced a short video announcing the carbon methodology, and explaining what it is, how it will hopefully work, and what the first few steps of implementing it may look like.

That video can be found here. Along with the information, the video features Campbell Ingram who is the Delta Conservancy Executive Director, and my boss.

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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for about a year and half, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations can submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals, and in the fall of 2016 we received our second round of proposals   (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements, twice. This is the exciting part because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for two of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals and three from the 2016 batch. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. The most recent grant funded project to be signed is one called the Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project, and it will restore about a mile of creek bank from the dry, open, barren ground that it is now to a healthy, vibrant, shaded native riparian corridor. It is the one I will focus on in this post.

The Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project was proposed by a non-profit organization called American Rivers. The site of the project is an area in the city of Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County where Marsh Creek is joined by Sand Creek and Deer Creek (the three creeks referenced in the project name). This stretch of Marsh Creek runs through a pretty urban environment, and at the moment, there is very little growing there.

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Confluence of Marsh, Deer, and Sand Creeks in Brentwood, Contra Costa County. Photo courtesy of American Rivers.

The project will dig out the steep banks of the creek on both sides and reshape them into more gentle slopes with small floodplains on either side. This will help reduce the risk of flooding and also create a bunch of floodplain habitat that is a rare thing in the Delta. After reshaping the banks, the new contoured will be planted with hundreds of native trees, hundreds of native shrubs, and thousands of native understory plants. As these plants all grow, they will create habitat for birds and other wildlife, shade the water in the creek keeping it cooler and more hospitable for native fish, and create a lovely trail for people to use. This stretch of restored creek will also connect other parts of the creek that have already been restored and so make it easier for animals and plants to disperse up and down stream.

Over the next three years that the Delta Conservancy will be funding this project for, it will be amazing to see this habitat come into being.

PrintThis project has a budget of $836,409 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

As of this writing, we are getting ready to open our third round of proposals which will then require review and scoring. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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