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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Widow White Creek, McKinleyville, California, USA

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Widow White Creek, McKinleyville, California, USA
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Registered: December 2011
City/Town/Province: Arcata
Posts: 1
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Be it hiking through the woods with my dad or the biological and natural science classes I ‘had’ to take; something ignited a keen interest in the state of our environment. As a result, I have devoted the past few years studying Ecological Restoration at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. As part of my studies, me and a group of peers designed, organized and implemented a restoration plan along the Widow White Creek in McKinleyville, CA.

The Widow White Creek is a stream that flows through an urban setting on the North Coast of California in Humboldt County. Widow White Creek is suffering from the impacts of urbanization, largely due to 24% of the watershed being classified as “densely urban” with new development stated to beguine soon. The urban watershed’s structure and function have been declining through the growth of commercial and residential development. Partnering the university with several non-profit organizations (Humboldt Fish Action Council, Humboldt Baykeepers, and Americorps WSP), we were able to remove invasive species, trash and conduct on-going monitoring.

The project goals were to remove holly (Ilex aquifolium), blue gum (Eucalyptus globules), ivy (Hedera helix), scotchbroom (Cytisus scoparius) and trash to improve local habitat quality, especially in an area with endangered and sensitive salmonid species (Coho salmon, Steelhead and Cutthroat trout). This was carried out through three workdays. Pre and post project data was collected to ensure that the project had a lasting effect.

The first workday was to prepare the site by flagging plants for removal, collecting specimens and pictures to educate volunteers, and removing Eucalyptus. The site was prepped by felling Eucalyptus; the best course of action was to cut these the day before for safety and feasibility reasons. One of our partners, Humboldt Fish Action Council (HFAC) provided a certified arborist to do the cutting; a climber secured a steal cable in larger trees; the cable was then hooked up to a backhoe to safely bring the tree down.

The other two workdays relied on volunteers to manually remove scotch broom, holly, ivy and trash. The workdays started off with a brief introduction of removal method and a presentation on the above mentioned species. Then we broke into small groups, led by one of the restoration plan authors, to divide up the work.

Two teams, consisting of three volunteers, concentrated on Scotch broom and English Holly removal. There was an extensive amount of trash throughout the stream; a group of four people walked the length of the stream collecting and removing garbage from within the stream and banks. Due to English Ivy’s prolific nature volunteers had to concentrate on two areas; ground cover and ivy climbing on trees. The remaining volunteers, working in groups of six, concentrated efforts to remove both types of ivy infestations.

Post project vegetation sampling illustrated that there was an overall significant decrease in vegetation primarily due to the volunteer’s efforts. This may have occurred due to the inter-twining nature of the English Ivy and its competitive nature. Taken as a whole, the objective of removing the invasive species through the participation of volunteer workdays was proven to be very effective. The most prominent decrease occurred with the H. helix. The eradication efforts were proven effective with the dramatic drop from 22.1% vegetation matter to 2.1% percent vegetation matter.

Water quality monitoring has since been conducted along the Widow White Creek in three different locations including the project site. In examining benthic macroinvertebrate populations and stream substrate, our data suggests that areas with prior localized restoration seemed more resistant and had better overall in-stream conditions. This contrasts with the idea that cumulative effects in a watershed will reflect the poorest in-stream conditions at the furthest down stream point.

Both the implementation and monitoring phases have occurred in 2011, April and October respectively; however by partnering with local non-profit and the university, follow up restoration and monitoring is feasible. Student involvement was pivotal in the implementation of restoration; students involved in Humboldt State’s Natural Resources Club comprised a large portion of our volunteers.

It is important to take care of this area because of the long history of degradation, and ecologically unsound land use practices. Riparian areas are especially sensitive habitats. Moreover, we need to protect sensitive and endangered species such as the anadromous fish. By removing invasive plants we can protect the biodiversity of the area by encouraging native plant recruitment and reestablishing suitable habitat for native flora and fauna.

The restoration plan and monitoring results are available upon request.
· Date: December 27, 2011 · Views: 2861 · File size: 25.1kb, 178.2kb · : 762 x 1028 ·
Hours Volunteered: 165
Volunteers: 66
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15 to 65
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 1.7
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