Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
University of California
Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: conservation

Grasscycling can help Californians conserve water

An electric mulching mower, which cuts grass clippings into fine pieces and leaves them on the lawn. (Photo: Cheryl Reynolds)
Gov. Jerry Brown asked Californians to cut water use by 20 percent a year ago. Officials at the State Water Resources Board announced in March that water users haven't come close to meeting the conservation goal. To help homeowners save water while maintaining a beautiful lawn, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) horticulture advisors recommend “grasscycling” turf at homes, schools, parks and businesses this spring and summer.

In short, grasscycling involves leaving grass clippings on the lawn, rather than collecting them in a bag and shipping them off to a landfill.

“The clippings sift down to the soil surface and act like a mulch, reducing water evaporation so you can cut back on irrigation,” said Karrie Reid, UC ANR Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County. “This is a simple and elegant way to save water that requires very little extra effort.”

If you don't have a mulching mower, Reid says, “It's probably time to replace the mower.” As an alternative, a mulching blade can be attached the bottom of most mowers. The special blade makes a second cut when mowing over grass, cutting grass clippings into finer pieces.

In most California climates, mowing once a week with a mulching mower is sufficient. If grass is growing so quickly a once-per-week mowing cuts off more than one-third of the blade, it's a sign that too much water is being applied.

In addition to reducing water use, grasscycling cuts down on fertilizer needs.

“As the clippings break down, nutrients are returned to the soil,” Reid said. “Most of the fertilizer that is applied to lawns ends up in the leaf blades, so it only makes sense to retain as much of that on the lawn as possible.”

A five-page UC ANR publication on mowing and grasscycling is available for free download from the UC ANR Catalog. The publication includes a table with mower height settings for the most common types of turf grass grown in California.

In addition to working with horticulture professionals, Reid serves as advisor to the coordinator and volunteers of the UC Master Gardener program in San Joaquin County. Master Gardeners are UC ANR volunteers who are trained by UC academics in sustainable landscape, ornamental tree and garden development and maintenance.

More than 6,000 volunteer Master Gardeners form a network to disseminate research-based gardening information across the state, donating upwards of 350,000 hours of time each year.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 11:26 AM
Tags: conservation (8), drought (1), Karrie Reid (1), water (2)

Uncommon conundrum: When removing invasive species threatens endangered ones

The California clapper rail — a bird found only in the bay — has come to depend on an invasive salt marsh cordgrass for nesting habitat. (Photo: Robert Clark)
Can't live with them, can't live without them — at least not at first when it comes to the relationship between some invasive and endangered species.

Efforts to eradicate invasive species increasingly occur side by side with programs focused on recovery of endangered ones. But what should resource managers do when the eradication of an invasive species threatens an endangered species?

In a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers at the UC Davis examine that conundrum now taking place in the San Francisco Bay. The California clapper rail — a bird found only in the bay — has come to depend on an invasive salt marsh cordgrass, hybridSpartina, for nesting habitat. Its native habitat has slowly vanished over the decades, largely due to urban development and invasion by Spartina.

Their results, picked up by TIME magazine, showed that, rather than moving as fast as possible with eradication and restoration, the best approach is to slow down the eradication of the invasive species until restoration or natural recovery of the system provides appropriate habitat for the endangered species.

“Just thinking from a single-species standpoint doesn't work,” said co-author and UC Davis environmental science and policy professor Alan Hastings. “The whole management system needs to take longer, and you need to have much more flexibility in the timing of budgetary expenditures over a longer time frame.”

The scientists combined biological and economic data for Spartina and the clapper rail to develop a modeling framework to balance conflicting management goals, including endangered species recovery and invasive species removal, given budgetary constraints.

While more threatened and endangered species are becoming dependent on invasive species for habitat and food, examples of the study's specific conflict are rare. The only other known case where the eradication of an invasive species threatened to compromise the recovery of an endangered one is in the southwestern United States, where a program to eradicate tamarisk was canceled in areas where the invasive tree provides nesting habitat for the endangered southwestern willow fly-catcher.

“As eradication programs increase in number, we expect this will be a more common conflict in the future,” said co-author and UC Davis professor Ted Grosholz.

The scientists used data from Grosholz's lab as well as from the Invasive Spartina Project of the California Coastal Conservancy in their analysis.

Spartina alterniflora was introduced to the San Francisco Bay in the mid-1970s by the Army Corps of Engineers as a method to reclaim marshland. It hybridized with native Spartina and invaded roughly 800 acres. Eradication of hybrid Spartina began in 2005, and about 92 percent of it has been removed from the bay. The cordgrass has also invaded areas of Willapa Bay in Washington state, where efforts to eradicate it are nearly complete, and invasive Spartina has been spotted and removed from Tomales Bay, Point Reyes and Bolinas Lagoon in California.

The study, led by UC Davis postdoctoral fellow Adam Lampert, was funded by the National Science Foundation Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program.

Co-authors include UC Davis environmental science and policy professor James Sanchirico and Sunny Jardine, a Ph.D. student at UC Davis during the study and currently assistant professor at University of Delaware. 

“This work is significant in advancing a general, analytical framework for cost-effective management solutions to the common conflict between removing invasive species and conserving biodiversity,” said Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology.

 

Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 6:44 AM
Tags: Clapper Rail (1), conservation (8), endangered (1), invasive (1), Spartina (1), UC Davis (1)

Giving thanks for California’s rich natural history

From the 13,400 monarch butterflies currently overwintering in Pacific Grove’s Monterey pine trees, to the salmon migrating upstream from the ocean to their natal river in our watersheds, to the western fence lizard doing pushups on your concrete curb, we are always surrounded by nature in this state. California is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, providing a home for over 30,000 species of insects, 63 freshwater fish, 46 amphibians, 96 reptiles, 563 birds, 190 mammals and more than 8,000 plants!

E.O. Wilson, conservation biologist, sociobiologist, and the world’s leading authority on ants says that “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” My hope for Green Blog readers this Thanksgiving week is that you can find some time to spend a few uninhibited, unstructured minutes in nature. Let your gratitude brim for whatever curiosities and satisfactions its discoveries may fulfill in you!

Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM

This Earth Day, UC pushes for healthier California forest lands

California forests aren’t natural anymore. Over time, human impacts such as logging and fire suppression have left forests more prone to diseases, insects and wildfires. UC Cooperative Extension received a competitive grant from Cal Fire to launch a forest management training program for private landowners to help protect California’s forests.

There are approximately 33 million acres of forest in California. Forty percent of those acres are owned by families, Native American tribes, or private companies and 27 percent are owned by individuals. According to a report by the National Woodland Owner Survey, 99 percent of family-owned forests are in parcels of 500 acres or less. Less than 1 percent of them had written management plans when surveyed.

Management plans are important — they lead to healthier forests. And healthier forests benefit everyone in California. They protect against devastating wildfires, make for healthier rural communities, better wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and increase carbon sequestration, among other benefits.

The UCCE Forest Stewardship Training Series makes it easy for landowners to create a forest management plan. By creating a written plan, landowners are forced to sit down and think about their goals and objectives, and essentially create a business plan. It’s also an important document when communicating with other professionals, such as bankers, accountants, granting agencies, etc. A management plan lays out the background of the forest, the landowner’s objectives, and the steps the landowner has taken or is taking to achieve those objectives.

Landowners are encouraged to start the process through an online e-learning site. Through the webinar, landowners learn how to set goals and objectives for their forest land and become familiar with their forest land by learning to understand tree management, wildlife, and water quality, recognize insects and diseases, and understand safety and roads. Once the landowner has set their goals and gone through the basic understanding training, they are connected with a professional forester to continue the land management plan process.

Upon completing the online training, landowners are invited to an all-day workshop for a more in-depth understanding of forest land management. Workshops will take place in Ukiah on May 18, Redding on May 29, Berkeley on June 15, and Auburn on June 22. Visit www.ucanr.edu/forest_learning for more information, or contact Rick Standiford, UC Cooperative Extension Forest Management Specialist, at standifo@berkeley.edu  

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 1:57 PM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

Wine and fish for dinner? Water management required

The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, say biologists at the University of California, Berkeley.

Juvenile steelhead trout, shown here in a small stream pool, are hit hard when water levels are low. (Ted Grantham photo)
A recently published study links higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream. Like salmon, steelhead trout migrate from freshwater streams to the ocean before returning to their birthplace to spawn. Steelhead trout in Southern California and the upper Columbia River are endangered, and several other populations, including those in Northern California, are threatened.

The researchers found that juvenile steelhead trout are particularly at risk during the dry summer season typical of California’s Mediterranean climate. Of the juvenile steelhead trout present in June, on average only 30 percent survived to the late summer. In years with higher rainfall and in watersheds with less vineyard land use, the survival of juvenile trout over the summer was significantly higher.

The researchers pointed out that salmon and trout conservation efforts have not adequately addressed summer stream flow. Previous studies have highlighted other limiting factors such as habitat degradation and water quality, while this study documented the importance of water quantity for restoring threatened populations.

Aerial view of vineyard agriculture in Sonoma County. Vineyards that divert water from streams used by juvenile salmon and steelhead trout could reduce their impacts by storing winter rainfall in small ponds such as the ones seen in this photo. (Adina Merenlender photo)
“Nearly all of California’s salmon and trout populations are on the path to extinction and if we’re going to bring these fish back to healthy levels, we have to change the way we manage our water,” said lead author Theodore Grantham, a recent Ph.D. graduate from UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM). “Water withdrawals for agricultural uses can reduce or eliminate the limited amount of habitat available to sustain these cold-water fish through the summer.

Grantham says he is not suggesting we get rid of vineyards. “But we do need to focus our attention on water management strategies that reduce summer water use. I believe we can protect flows for fish and still have our glass of wine.”

Posted on Friday, May 18, 2012 at 10:20 AM
  • Author: Ann Brody Guy
  • Adapted from an article by: Sarah Yang
Tags: conservation (8), fish (1), salmon (1), water (2), wine (1)

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