Monday, March 9, 2015

Sweet Springs Nature Preserve - March 2015 Update

It is springtime again at Sweet Springs Preserve.  With regard to weather, this winter has been a roller coaster.  If the rainfall patterns we saw in December had continued, it would have been a banner year… maybe even a drought-buster.

Unfortunately, January was the driest on record in much of California, and the Central Coast was no exception.  We’ve had sufficient rain to rejuvenate trees and shrubs, and produce a lush growth of annual plants.  Parts of eastern San Luis Obispo County currently have extravagant wildflower blooms.  A drive east on Highway 58 will reveal some beautiful displays.  However, the rains have been too few and far between to fill reservoirs and replenish groundwater reserves.  So, for now, the historic drought in California continues.  NOAA just declared the arrival of a late and weak El NiƱo.  So, a March miracle could still happen!

Unfortunately, the timing of rain in January and February was bad, and forced the cancellation of two scheduled volunteer work parties.  Happily, it looks like the work party scheduled for March 14th will enjoy good weather.  We’ll be planting a nice batch of native plants provided by John Chesnut, and attacking veldt grass again.  This is an important work party, as it will be the last time we can attack veldt grass this season before it sets seed again, so we’re hoping a good crew will come out to enjoy the spring weather and accomplish some meaningful restoration work at Sweet Springs Preserve!

A lot of weeding has been accomplished through the spring, and nearly all of the Sahara mustard was removed before it had a chance to drop seeds.  Weeding in Central Sweet Springs was also done, especially around the entrance and the Ramona Avenue frontage.

An important step forward in the ecological restoration of East Sweet Springs was accomplished in January and February.  All invasive Eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees less than 8 inches in diameter (dbh) were removed by a commercial tree service, using grant funds provided by the California State Coastal Conservancy.  The removal of these trees, along with the trimming of low branches on larger trees will provide the space for growing and the sunlight needed for the re-establishment of appropriate native vegetation along the edge of the marsh in Sweet Springs East.

A significant cluster of wintering monarchs used trees in Central Sweet Springs, just inside of the Ramona Avenue entrance.  Monarch surveys were also conducted in East Sweet Springs to ensure that no disturbance to clustering monarchs occurred there during tree removal.  No clusters of monarchs were ever observed in East Sweet Springs this winter.

In late February, students from a plant ecology class at Cal Poly visited Sweet Springs during class field trips.  Dave Clendenen, lands manager for MCAS met with these field trips, and provided a brief overview of MCAS’s management challenges and priorities at Sweet Springs, as well as the history and ecology of the Preserve.