In the early 1800s, European immigrants introduced the fast-growing giant reed arundo (Arundo donax) into California to use the canes for musical instruments. The plants were also used for erosion control and the reeds used for thatched roofing. However, it has since naturalized and become a serious pest in the state's natural waterways.
Arundo can grow at a rate of four inches per day and can reach heights of 30 feet. It reproduces and spreads when sections of the stem or root break off and float downstream.
Dense stands of arundo displace native riparian species. The plant requires a significant amount of water, reducing fish, wildlife and people. In addition, clumps of arundo and the soil around their roots can break off, causing streambank erosion. The clumps can also create channel obstructions that lead to flooding.
Arundo is highly flammable and can quickly carry fire along waterways. After a fire, arundo quickly grows back from its roots. With other nearby plants burned by fire, arundo can spread even more quickly, leaving no room for native plants to recover.
Californians can help reduce the spread of arundo by taking the following actions:
- Learn more about arundo, including how to identify it
- Report sightings to local conservation groups
- Join local eradication efforts or help to start one
- If you own land with an arundo infestation, request help and provide access for control efforts
California Naturalist program is a way for the institution to spread research-based knowledge about environmental stewardship and nature preservation. Rather than simply educating students, the program engages citizens of all ages through discovery and action in the science of conservation.
After completing the program, California Naturalists will become a committed corps of citizen scientists trained and ready for involvement in natural resources education and restoration.
“To ensure the sustainability of natural resources in California, we need citizens who participate in natural resource conservation, understand the importance of land use decisions and climate change resilience,” said Julie Fetherston, a UC Cooperative Extension program representative for Mendocino and Lake counties. “The California Naturalists will understand the need for biodiversity, be informed about limitations of our water and energy resources, and be aware of the role that science and UC play in sustaining our natural ecosystems.”
Participants in the program take a 40-hour course that combines classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. The course materials are offered to sponsoring organizations across the state that have a need for volunteers with an appreciation for natural systems and a desire to be involved in their protection. The curriculum covers ecology, geology, plant communities, interpretation and wildlife. Regional modules are also being added.
“We have developed a flexible curriculum that can be adapted by many different organizations,” Fetherston said.
Organizations that might offer the California Naturalist training are the California Native Plant Society, Audubon societies, land conservation organizations, nature conservancies and state and national parks.
Fetherston and UC Berkeley natural resources specialist Adina Merenlender pilot-tested the program in Sonoma County, where the coursework was offered in collaboration with the Pepperwood Preserve, a coast mountain range nature preserve, and the local community college. The result was a committed and informed group of card-carrying California Naturalists ready to extend their knowledge as volunteers for the Pepperwood Preserve.
For more information or to inquire about offering the program, see the California Naturalist website.
What effect do changes made to the forest - for wildfire management or timber harvest, for example - have on California spotted owl? That question prompted the organizers of the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) to incorporate an owl team into its wide-ranging effort.
The owl team recently gathered at the UC Blodgett Forest near Georgetown with members of the public and representatives of agencies involved in SNAMP. They explained the scope of the on-going spotted owl research program and the smaller subsection that is part of the SNAMP project.
Project manager Doug Tempel and assistant project leader Sheila Whitmore, both affiliated with the University of Minnesota, said the owls are humanely trapped using a snare pole, a blood sample taken for genetic testing and colored bands attached to the legs for easy identification of the owls in the wild.
Because each owl has a different color band and tab combination, they need never be captured again.
Tempel said one owl pair lives in an area called the "Last Chance." That area will be subjected to Forest Service treatments, then observations by the owl scientists will indicate the impact of the treatments on those owls' lives.
Kim Ingram of UC Cooperative Extension is the SNAMP representative for the northern Sierra Nevada.
She said information from the spotted owl study will be integrated with data collected by other teams to better understand how forests can be managed to ensure sustainable timber resources, minimize wildfire risk to people and structures and conserve wildlife habitat.
Besides the spotted owl team, other teams that are part of SNAMP are: