Grasslands are really important. They provide habitat for 90% of state-listed rare and endangered species and 75% of federally listed plants and animals make grasslands their home. Which is why POST is working to restore them back to their natural state.
For the past 6 months, I have been working to evaluate the success of a restoration effort by Go Native Inc. on a portion of Cloverdale Coastal Ranches.
Ok, here’s what happened.
Back in 2002, Go Native constructed restoration plots at Cloverdale. These plots were mowed, tilled and seeded with a local, native seed mix that was collected from the property.
Our job this summer was to evaluate the success of this work. We used the GPS information recorded at the time of restoration to go out, find these sites and survey the plant communities. We were hoping to see more native plants in the restoration plots compared to the control areas, where no restoration occurred.
But that would have been too easy.
After analyzing the data, we found that the restoration plots did not do measurably better than the control plots. “Why” you ask? We asked the same question.
My first thought was that maybe we didn’t have a large enough sample size. It was strange to me that one of the plots we surveyed didn’t have any needle grasses (two of the plants in the seed mix) because just a few meters from that plot, there was a large, dense patch of the grasses. A larger sample area might have helped mitigate this.
I knew something was off, so I did a little digging.
While looking through historical aerial images on Google Earth, I came across an image from April 2005 showing the restoration plots after they were mowed. I then overlaid our survey areas over this aerial image.
It finally all made so much sense. We had surveyed the wrong areas! The GPS data we had for these restoration sites was from 15 years ago and it wasn’t as accurate as we needed it.
So what does this mean?
Although our data analysis implies our restoration efforts had little effect, it was clear to us that it did better than our data had indicated. Finding these grasses present in dense patches means these efforts weren’t for nothing. I’m certain that if we went back and surveyed the plots (accurately this time), we would see a large, measurable difference in treatment effects, indicating some success. Through this work, I’m confident restoring the grassland community is possible at Cloverdale, and that these needle grasses are effective in restoration – even if our data doesn’t reflect that.
Evaluating the success of this restoration has been a great learning process for me. As I’m starting my career, this experience has shown me how to learn and figure things out as I go, especially when things don’t turn out as expected.
Knowing that we are able to restore these grasses will help POST implement future restoration efforts, and bring us a step closer to fulfilling our conservation goals.
Want to learn more about our work restoring the coastal grasslands at Cloverdale Coastal Ranches? Jump to this blog and dig in!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more