Posted on Categories Habitats, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Russian River environment: The plant invasion in Mendocino and Sonoma counties

Christina Goulart, UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL

Give them an inch and they’ll take an acre…as the California Invasive Pest Council says. There are a whopping 195 invasive plant species in Sonoma County. In the northwestern forest region, which includes Mendocino County, 265 invasive species have been identified.

An invasive plant species is non-native and aggressively out-competes native species. In other words, they spread fast and crowd out other plants, harming ecosystems and impacting water quality. Native plants provide shelter and food for native insects, birds and animals. Invasive species tend not to have habitat value. In fact, they sometimes destroy the very habitats native species need to survive.

Ludwigia hexapetala (water primrose)

One of the most damaging invasive plants is invasive Ludwigia or water primrose. Water primrose is a lovely, floating plant with delicate yellow flowers and is a favorite for artificial ponds and aquariums. Unfortunately, several subspecies of water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala and Ludwigia peploides) are aggressively invasive and among the most concerning of the invasive species for water quality and stream health.

Invasive Ludwigia grows quickly and thickly on water surfaces, blocking out light, using up the oxygen and choking out other life. When invasive Ludwigia covers a water body surface, aquatic birds cannot penetrate the thick mat of Ludwigia with their beaks to hunt for food. Ludwigia also depletes the oxygen in the water body it covers, so that the oxygen is no longer available for fish and other life.

Arundo donax (Giant Reed)

Arundo donax (Giant Reed) grows best along stream banks. It was introduced for erosion control because it quickly covers exposed soil. Unfortunately, that very quality that is useful for erosion control makes it an invasive species, crowding out native plant species, and reducing habitat value for birds and other animals. Arundo has another huge drawback – it is highly flammable, speeding the spread of wildfire.

Protect our river. Protect our streams. Don’t plant or spread invasive species. Here is what you can do…

Plant California native plants in your yards and gardens.

Native plants can be just as beautiful as exotic ornamentals and provide ecosystem benefits. For example, the California Lilac has lovely purple blooms. It’s a nitrogen-fixing plant. The California Fuchsia blooms deep red or purple and attracts hummingbirds. The California Native Plant Society has an on-line tool to help you select native species. www.cnps.org/gardening. The California Invasive Plant Council also lists helpful links for plants to use and stay away from for land managers, landscapers and for the public www.cal-ipc.org.

Read more at https://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/2019/01/08/russian-river-environment-the-plant-invasion-in-mendocino-and-sonoma-counties/

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Invasive species are a threat in Sonoma County parks

Steven Nett, SONOMA COUNTY REGIONAL PARKS BLOG

No, it’s not the zombie apocalypse. This threat is from invasive plant and animal species that have wormed their way into Sonoma County despite best efforts to stop them. Some are just as scary, gruesome and strange as fantasy creatures. But unlike the fictional walking dead, these invaders can do actual harm.

Take the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater.) Cowbirds originally lived on the Great Plains, following bison that scared up a rich diet of insects. Because their food source was mobile, cowbirds, didn’t have the luxury of sitting on nests to raise their young. Instead, they developed the strategy of laying eggs in the nests of other birds, who then unwittingly feed and raise them. To ensure they do, cowbirds often remove the host bird’s own eggs.

When humans brought cattle to Sonoma County, the cowbirds followed. Today, two of California’s native birds, the least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), are listed as endangered because of brown-headed cowbirds.

This is just one case of the silent ongoing battles between natives and invasive species in Sonoma County.

Then there’s medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae.) Medusahead is a fast-spreading grass with a nasty survival skill: The plant incorporates exceptionally large amounts of fine silica (the raw material used to make glass) into its leaves, stems and spiky awns, the needle-like crowns (pictured below) that give medusahead its fearsome name.

Read more at https://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Learn/Blog/Articles/Invasive-Plant-and-Animal-Species/?

Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Intercepted Lake Mendocino boat had invasive quagga mussels aboard

Intercepted Lake Mendocino boat had invasive quagga mussels aboard

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

DNA analysis confirmed this week that stowaway shellfish intercepted at the Lake Mendocino boat ramp early this month were invasive quagga mussels, as initially feared.

The finding by state Fish and Wildlife personnel validates just how close the region came to confronting a destructive scourge. Infestation by the nonnative bivalve could have had profound implications for wildlife and recreation in the lake, as well as water-supply infrastructure serving more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and northern Marin counties, officials said.

But for the moment, it appears the crisis was averted, thanks to a sweet-faced, blond Labrador named Noah. The mussel-sniffing dog and his handler have been showered with gratitude from recreational boaters since they detected tiny quagga mussels aboard a vessel about to be launched into Lake Mendocino on June 2.

“It’s been amazing, the community response,” said Brad Sherwood, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency, which contracts with Central Valley-based Mussel Dogs for weekend boat inspections at both lakes Sonoma and Mendocino. “The mussel inspection team has gotten nothing but praise and support from the community.”

Fish and Wildlife personnel still are trying to determine where the vessel, owned by a Marin County man, had been used before Lake Mendocino, and if any other water bodies may inadvertently have been exposed, said Martha Volkoff, environmental program manager for the agency’s habitat conservation planning branch.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8483530-181/intercepted-lake-mendocino-boat-had

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Plans to curb Green Valley Creek flooding

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

The Sonoma County Water Agency has released details of the agency’s Green Valley Creek flood control plans to reduce chronic wet weather flooding of Green Valley Road near Graton.

“Last year Green Valley Road was closed for over three weeks due to flooding,” said Lynda Hopkins, who as Fifth District county supervisor also serves as a Water Agency director. “The project would make Green Valley Road safer for the communities who rely on it, as well as the fish and wildlife who rely on the creek.”

When the creek floods, high water on the roadway cuts off access to the Graton community from the west, causing disrupted traffic on Green Valley and Graton roads.

The agency’s Green Valley Creek High Flow Channel Project will remove sediment in the creek west of Graton and restore the creek banks with native vegetation. The Water Agency released a draft initial study and Negative Declaration for the project on June 22. The public is invited to comment on the project before a July 24 deadline.

(An electronic copy of the draft environmental study is available at www.scwa.ca.gov/environmental-documents. )

Read more at http://www.sonomawest.com/sonoma_west_times_and_news/news/plans-to-curb-green-valley-creek-flooding/article_02f401ba-79a8-11e8-8740-97d3a09e8cd0.html

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Bodega lab scientist Susan Williams was key voice for conservation, mentor to students worldwide

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Susan Williams was a Bodega Bay marine biologist and professor whose scientific expertise was instrumental in a decadeslong effort to expand federal protections for North Coast marine ecosystems.

She directed the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and served as a key advisor to California lawmakers working to protect coastal waters from oil and gas development. Her research showed how ocean health is connected to the wellbeing of coastal communities and humanity at large, and her ability to communicate simply about complicated science made her an essential adviser, said former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat who relied on Williams’ counsel in her battles for environmental protections.

“What a loss for our country and our oceans and everybody that has ever met her,” said Woolsey, who served in Congress until 2013. “She was able to put words to science and make it real.”

Willams, 66, was the lone fatality Tuesday in a six-vehicle crash on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma, where her Toyota Prius was struck head-on by Chevrolet Silverado pickup that authorities said crossed over into her lane.

Williams studied seagrass and coral reefs at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, and her research documented the impacts of warming ocean waters and human activity. Her studies covered the impact of invasive species brought into ports and the prevalence of plastic in the sea.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8257601-181/bodega-lab-scientist-susan-williams?utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pd_daily&utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pd_daily

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , , , ,

Assembly bill carries renewed hope of improvements for Clear Lake

Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cloud-shrouded mountains towered above the glistening waters of Clear Lake on a recent April day as pelicans dove for fish and pairs of grebes dashed side by side across the water in a mating ritual. But not all is pristine on the lake, which suffers from chronic problems with algae overgrowth and mercury contamination from old mining operations, issues that have plagued the ancient lake for decades.
Local, state and federal officials over the years have launched numerous efforts to address the problems and avoid potential new ones like invasive mussels, with limited success. The efforts have included three failed county tax measures since 2012 aimed at improving lake quality, an ongoing federal cleanup of a mercury mine and a long-awaited wetlands restoration project.
Now, a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, is offering new hope for lake improvements. AB 707 doesn’t currently include funding, but local and state officials say it could make such financing easier to obtain by getting multiple agencies and groups to work together on a common goal.
“This is a big deal,” said Lake County Supervisor Jim Steele, a former Fish and Wildlife scientist and manager.
AB 707 would create a “blue ribbon” committee that would bring together a battery of scientists, elected officials, tribal members, environmentalists and others to study the problems and come up with potential solutions.
Read more at: Assembly bill carries renewed hope of improvements for Clear Lake | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WildlifeTags , ,

How California eradicated an invasive grapevine moth

Weston Williams, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Since 2009, California farmers and agricultural officials of California have been at war with the European grapevine moth. The invasive species threatened the region’s massive wine and grape industry and threatened to throw off the balance of the local ecosystem.
But now, after seven years, the war is over. The moth has been declared eradicated from the United States.The European grapevine moth, Lobesia botrana, is native to southern Europe. The insect’s larvae feed on grape bud clusters as well as the developing fruit, exposing them to damaging fungi and other pests.
The appearance of the moths came as a surprise. In October of 2009, multiple moths and larvae were discovered in a Napa County vineyard, according to a 2010 press release from the County of Sonoma Agricultural Commissioner’s office. In response, several measures were put in place to combat the invasive species. The USDA and CDFA quickly quarantined the affected vineyards and began setting up traps to keep track of the moth population.
It is still unknown how the insects got to the US, but they quickly spread to other counties in California, and their numbers quickly climbed to a peak in 2010, when more than 100,000 moths were detected through traps. By that time, 52,170 acres of California vineyards had been put under quarantine, according to The Press Democrat.
Read more at: How California eradicated an invasive grapevine moth – CSMonitor.com

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino plan for stronger measures to ward off invasive mussels 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino were ringed in recent years by the telltale signs of drought, their diminished water levels leaving exposed earth that in wetter years is well-submerged.
Winter and spring runoff helped to replenish the two reservoirs, which together supply much of the North Bay’s drinking water and provide popular destinations to cool off in the summertime.
But a big threat to the two lakes remains in the form of tiny mollusks — quagga and zebra mussels — that are invading fresh water bodies across California and the West, hitching rides from one lake or reservoir to another on boats and trailers.
The bivalve mollusks, imports from Eastern Europe, swiftly colonize large areas, clogging intake pipes, covering docks and damaging other infrastructure while upending aquatic ecosystems.
Their spread, from the Southwest and north from Southern California, has reservoir operators throughout the state on high alert. For several years, Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino have been on the front lines of that endless fight, officials say.
“Aside from the drought, the threat of invasive mussels taking hold in either of the two lakes is one of the most significant issues facing our region today,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who called the reservoirs “prime targets for infestation,” given their popularity among boaters.
The federal agency that oversees Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino is set to step up its fight against the mussels with mandatory boat inspections slated to begin over the next year.
Read more at: Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino plan for stronger measures to ward off invasive mussels | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

New Laguna de Santa Rosa trail shows an ecosystem in recovery

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A group of two dozen people on Saturday got the first official look at a multimillion-dollar restoration effort along a 1.7-mile stretch of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the broad freshwater wetland that flows into the Russian River.
A guided morning hike of the new Southern Laguna Discovery Trail outside Rohnert Park revealed a renewed ecosystem that is showing signs of recovery after decades of abuse and neglect. Steelhead trout and river otter populations are recovering, native plants and saplings are taking root and natural predators are returning.
“Check this out, it’s bobcat scat,” said Kevin Monroe, executive director of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, as a group of hikers gathered around him and cheered the discovery. “Seeing a top predator in this habitat is just wonderful. We still have much further to go, but this is a sign that some health and functionality is being returned to this ecosystem.”
Spearheaded by the foundation, and the Sonoma County Water Agency, restoration efforts along the middle reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa have been underway since 2012. Just four years ago, the waterway that flows from Cotati and past Sebastopol before spilling into the Russian River was surrounded largely by grassland. Most of the native trees and shrubs were ripped out during the early 1970s, and the meandering waterway was straightened to help prevent flooding in Rohnert Park.
Runoff from urban areas and dairy farms led to other problems, spurring an explosion of invasive plants that choked off oxygen in the waters, leading to significant declines in wildlife populations.
Some of those issues have been stemmed by conservation efforts.“It’s a big experiment, but all of the plants and animals are starting to come back,” said Wendy Trowbridge, director of restoration and conservation science programs for the foundation. “And 20 years from now, this will be like walking in a lovely forest.”
Read more at: New Laguna de Santa Rosa trail unveiled outside Rohnert Park | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on A natural history of that little yellow flower that's everywhere right now

A natural history of that little yellow flower that's everywhere right now

Chelsea Leu, BAY NATURE
Oxalis pes-caprae is an attractive little flower with five yellow petals and leaves that are cloven in a way that apparently reminded Linnaeus—who described the species in 1753—of a goat’s foot. Commonly known as sourgrass or Bermuda buttercup, it flowers from November to April, and in the last few months oxalis has come out in full force in the Bay Area, encouraged by December and February rains. The flowers dot hillsides, parks, and highway medians like the mottled points of light in a Monet, delighting many observers.
They do not delight Jake Sigg.oxalis2
“I’ve just been frantic about it,” says Sigg, a retired Golden Gate Park gardener and the Bay’s most outspoken opponent of yellow oxalis. “It’s our most troublesome plant.”
Oxalis pes-caprae is invasive, a weed native to South Africa that was transplanted to California early in the 1900s, probably to be grown as a demure ornamental plant. By the late 1980s, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1988, it was a frustratingly persistent nuisance in home gardens. Now, Sigg has watched in horror as oxalis has taken over the coastal grasslands he tends. He first noticed a small patch of them in San Francisco’s Grandview Park back in the 1980s. By 2003, Sigg says, it was all over the hill. “In the last 10 years it really got going fast,” he says. “It’s just a blitzkrieg.” And the onslaught will probably continue. “If we did nothing, in X many years Twin Peaks would just be one solid mass of yellow, and there wouldn’t be any other plants there,” Sigg says. “It’s destroying our grasslands.”
Oxalis crowds out native wildflowers for light and space, and prevents other plants from gaining a foothold in the land. “Oxalis is terminal,” Sigg says. Once it takes over, the wildlife that depends on native flowers moves on, leaving nothing but oxalis in its wake (and bare ground during the six months of the year oxalis doesn’t flower). An oxalis-dominated landscape drives away coyotes, hawks and owls that feed on grassland foragers, and the situation is especially dire for endangered Mission blue butterflies, which depend heavily on native wildflowers. Whole hillsides are now “marching towards monoculture,” Sigg says. But we haven’t raised the alarm because, as he wrote in 2003, “we hardly notice [the spread] because it occurs slowly, subtly, surreptitiously.”
Read more via A Natural History of That Little Yellow Flower That’s Everywhere Right Now – Bay Nature.