September 3, 2014

Habitat Restoration Project at Rancho Guadalupe beach


Ice plant is headstrong. Not only does it spread fast and cover a considerable amount of land surface, it also grows deep into the ground. By no means can ice plant be eradicated. But if one ever attempts to remove an ice plant into a trash bag after digging up most of its root, it’s very likely that he or she will just have to drag the plant instead of lifting it up and putting it into the bag. Because really, ice plant is insanely heavy.

The question is: Why would someone attempt to eradicate ice plants?

Out at Rancho Guadalupe beach, native plants are fighting a losing battle against nonnatives (such as ice plant) for nutrients. In fact, invasive plants were introduced to the dunes by humans and outgrew native plants in an uncontrollable manner. If nothing is done, native plants will die out.

Now that we've recognized our mistake of introducing invasive plants to the dunes, shouldn't we do something to make up for it?

In fact, the Dunes Center has started a habitat restoration project where we send our volunteers to Rancho Guadalupe beach every Friday to pull invasive plants from a particularly sensitive wetland habitat located on the north edge of the park.

This type of habitat is home to hundreds of species of native plants and animals and is important to the overall health of the coastal dune ecosystem. Besides ice plants, mustard plants also spread widely and appear to be invading native plants’ habitat.

Arriving at the dunes and seeing how well invasive plants grow, most volunteers would agree that this is an endless project, if not impossible. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Even though all of the volunteers are equipped with thick gloves, getting scratches is common.


So far, we have completed six days of work and collected over 200 bags of invasive plants. Of course, it’s still just the beginning, but doesn’t it sound hopeful?

If you have some free time on Fridays and would like to join us in this project, apply to volunteer at the Dunes Center.

Before-and-after photo

Before-and-after photo

Compiled by intern Tram Nguyen

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