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.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , , Leave a comment on State ag official says new law does not impact GMOs

State ag official says new law does not impact GMOs

A spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture said Friday that a new law that has sparked alarm across California among opponents of genetically modified organisms will not impact the ability of local jurisdictions to regulate GMOs.
“It is clear that the legislative intent does not extend to the issue of GMOs,” Steve Lyle said via email.
However, the eagerly anticipated interpretation of Assembly Bill 2470 failed to ease concerns for Sonoma County GMO opponents, who vowed Friday to continue pressing for a countywide ban prior to the law’s taking effect Jan. 1.
“What if somebody else comes along and interprets it (the law) another way?” said Karen Hudson, coordinator of the group Sonoma County Label GMOs.
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to debate a resolution calling on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance banning GMOs. Similarly, Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley sent a letter to the board calling on supervisors to protect local authority over plants, seeds and crops.
Bartley on Friday said Santa Rosa’s concern isn’t with GMOs, but with maintaining “local control.”
The controversy centers on a single paragraph inserted late into an Assembly bill to reportedly deal with a narrow conflict — a proposed invasive plant policy in the city of Encinitas, in San Diego County. The final legislation has had a much wider fallout, leading GMO opponents statewide to wonder how the bill managed to get so little attention prior to Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing it Aug. 25.
Read more via State ag official: New law does not impact | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on How to mend the conservation divide

How to mend the conservation divide

A SCHISM has recently divided those who love nature.

“New conservationists” have been shaking up the field, proposing new approaches that break old taboos — moving species to new ranges in advance of climate change, intervening in designated wilderness areas, using nonnative species as functional stand-ins for those that have become extinct, and embracing novel ecosystems that spring up in humanized landscapes.

Some “old conservationists” have reacted angrily to this, preferring to keep the focus on protecting wilderness and performing classical restoration that keeps ecosystems as they were hundreds of years ago. Editorials, essays and books have been lobbed back and forth, feathers have been ruffled and conservation groups and government officials have felt pressure from both sides.

The truth is, despite the disagreements, both groups love nature and want to protect it. These seemingly competing alternatives are really complementary parts of the smartest strategy: We should try everything.

Conservation used to seem pretty straightforward: set aside tracts of nature and they will take care of themselves. It is not so simple anymore. Nature left unmanaged is changing in surprising ways because of the great and accelerating human influences of what is being called the Anthropocene — the new epoch of climate change, species movements and global-scale land-use change. Today, keeping nature functioning the way it did before the Industrial Revolution requires increasingly hard and expensive work.

At Yellowstone National Park, for example, nonnative trout are fished out of lakes; nonnative plants are ripped up; bison are culled to preset numbers. In California, salmon fry are trucked down to the ocean when drought dries up streams. In Maryland and Virginia, baby oysters are raised in hatcheries, then released into the Chesapeake Bay.

At the same time, we have begun tinkering with nature to help it cope. In North Carolina, blight-resistant genes from Asian trees are bred into American chestnuts so that the mighty trees, devastated by human-introduced disease, might again dot Eastern forests. In the Indian Ocean, tortoises from the Seychelles are introduced to other islands to play the role of extinct tortoises there, eating fruit and dispersing seeds. In Canada, foresters replant harvested areas with seedlings from areas farther south or lower in altitude, betting that they will better survive a warmer climate.

In other cases, what seemed obviously helpful has turned out to hurt. A gallfly introduced to control spotted knapweed in the West ended up nourishing deer mice, which flourished and began gorging themselves on the seeds of the native plants the knapweed was threatening. In California, restoration projects to pull out nonnative spartina grass on beaches were called into question when the endangered clapper rail was found to nest there. Controlling nature can be risky.

So what should we do? Should we continue to invest in keeping ecosystems in historical configurations? Should we attempt to engineer landscapes to be resilient to tomorrow’s conditions? Or should we just let nature adapt on its own?

We should do all three. In the face of great uncertainty, the sensible thing to do is hedge our bets and allocate large swaths of landscape to all three approaches: restoration, innovation and hands-off observation.

In the United States, the large landholdings of the federal government should be managed this way. We can classically restore in culturally resonant places like national parks, preserving the beloved landscapes and dynamics that sustained those ecosystems over thousands of years. Where we innovate, ideally in landscapes already significantly altered, we can focus our scientific talents and technology on species conservation, preserving the fantastic diversity of life.

And where we keep our hands off, perhaps in areas already set aside as wilderness, we can preserve nature wild and untrammeled. Unmanaged places like wilderness areas will most likely take on new and unexpected aspects as the climate changes. Familiar species will disappear and new species will move in. But we can learn as nature adapts to these challenges without our meddling.

No one approach will save everything. Ceasing all management will put many threatened species at risk for extinction. Restoring ecosystems to historical baselines may prevent them from adapting to change and lead to collapse. And innovation means creating untested systems that may also fail. Mistakes are inevitable. But at each site, we should fully commit to a single strategy. Otherwise, we risk a haphazard stew of approaches that don’t meet any goal.

The vast majority of conservationists are neither old nor new. They don’t even self-identify as conservationists. But if you would rather that bulldozers not raze the woods, desert or beach you love, then you are a conservationist. If you would rather that the tiger or bog turtle not go extinct, then you are a conservationist. And, if you like the idea that some places should be truly wild and free, then you are a conservationist.

No matter which reason motivates you most, working together and using a diversity of approaches is far better than inaction or squabbling. With hard work, political support and lots of money, we can have the cherished landscapes, the most endangered species, and the comfort of knowing there is still wild nature left. We just can’t expect to have them all in the same place.


Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Fight against quagga mussels comes to Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino

Fight against quagga mussels comes to Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino


A consortium of government agencies with a stake in the health of Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino are putting the finishing touches on a mandatory boat inspection strategy they hope will hold off the scourge of invasive mussels already fouling waterways around the state.

The proposed plan, expected to be up and running next spring, will require adjustments and patience on the part of recreational boaters, officials say.

But it’s believed to be the only way to ensure the tiny but destructive shellfish that have infested 30 water bodies in California don’t get a toehold on the North Coast, they said.

via Fight against quagga mussels comes to Lake Sonoma | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Lake County seeking tax increase in fight against invasive mussels

Lake County seeking tax increase in fight against invasive mussels


Lake County supervisors are again asking voters to help them keep invasive, ecology-altering mussels out of Clear Lake.

“It’s ultimately up to voters,” said Supervisor Tony Farrington.

Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved placing a half-percent sales tax increase on the June ballot.

The “Healthy Lake Sales Tax” would boost funding for the county’s battle against quagga and zebra mussels. It also would fund clean water and wetlands projects and the ongoing battle to control the chronic overgrowth of aquatic plants in the lake.

via Lake County seeking tax increase in fight against invasive mussels | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Forests, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Stands of dead trees at Annadel State Park to be chopped down

Stands of dead trees at Annadel State Park to be chopped down


The tranquility of Annadel State Park’s forested hillsides will be pierced next week by the shriek of chainsaws felling dead trees throughout the 5,000-acre preserve.CalFire crews will begin toppling about 2,000 Douglas fir trees that have been killed over the years in an effort to keep them from overrunning the native oak woodlands.

via Stands of dead trees at Annadel State Park to be chopped down | The Press Democrat.