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Posts Tagged ‘Cosumnes River Preserve’

A few years ago I wrote a post on niche partitioning among herons and egrets. That post was inspired by watching several species of herons and egrets foraging for food along Putah Creek near Davis, CA, and the resource they were partitioning into niches was food.

Recently, as part of my work at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, I encountered another example of niche partitioning by herons and egrets. This time, the resource these birds are partitioning into niches is nesting trees.

One of the grants that I manage at the Delta Conservancy is at the Cosumnes River Preserve and it includes and grove of large Valley Oak trees that many herons, egrets, and cormorants use as a rookery (a rookery is a colony of breeding animals, generally birds). One way that the various species have evolved to utilize the same trees, and yet avoid directly competing with each other, is for each species to utilize a different part of each tree to nest in.

Great Blue Herons typically nest on the very tops of the crowns of trees, Great Egrets typically nest only in the upper one-third of the canopy, Snowy Egrets typically nest in the middle one-third of the canopy, and Black-crowned Night-Herons prefer to nest in the lower one-third of the canopy (see the image below).

Niche partitioning of nesting locations within a tree by heron and egret species

I think this stratifying of nesting locations is amazing! Species have evolved to fill so many different niches, and so many niches can be divided into finer and finer gradations. I wonder if there is really any limit to how many species can evolve, and how complex an ecosystem can develop, in a give location.

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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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