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Battling Invasive Species Along Bear Creek

by Jessica Calvillo

Meandering through the twists and turns of the Santa Cruz Mountains is a creek known for its Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) spawning grounds and diverse variety of native plant species. Stretching from the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve and eventually uniting with the San Lorenzo river in Boulder Creek, this sensitive riparian habitat has been highlighted as under threat by invasive plant life competing with our natives. Starting in December 2017 to present, our Ecological Concerns Inc. team have taken on the task of removing some of our Redwood forest’s most invasive species plaguing this waterway. Our ground team, led by Kevin Powell and Steve Glascock, with the direction of Project Manager Garrick Hansen, have been working hard ploughing through old growth English ivy (Hedera helix), Bigleaf Periwinkle (Vinca major), and French Broom (Genista monspessulana). Outside of the context of their native environments, these exotic species face little competition or natural herbivorous predation thus allowing for an uninhibited and devastating takeover. With the acute understanding of the sensitivity and interconnectedness of this riparian habitat with the surrounding biome, the decision was made to approach the situation organically and without the use of herbicides. This means the removal was to be done entirely by hand in order to preserve the integrity of the creek banks and existing native plant life. This method may be slower going but a steady and delicate touch is often what it takes to get a job like this done right.

The creek, which was once suffocated by these invasive competitors, is now finally being given the chance to breathe and eventually repopulate itself with the persisting natives and the existing seed bank once hidden below. Though the battle against the spread of invasive species is uphill indeed, it is within the heart of ECI’s mission to keep up the fight for the sake of preserving our state’s incredible biodiversity.

As a community, we can do our part by abstaining from planting invasive species and opting for natives suitable to the surrounding ecosystem. Give us a call or stop by the nursery to find some great alternatives to these pesky plants! And to get involved in projects like this get in touch with the California Native Plant Society, Santa Cruz Chapter for invasive species removal volunteer opportunities. Follow this link to find out more!


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