Jun 07, 2024

California Invasive Species Action Week

In California, the first week of June is Invasive Species Action Week and is dedicated to raising awareness and inspiring action around invasive species. The effort is organized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and highlights the impacts that invasive species have on our ecosystems, economy, and health. Activities and events across the state aim to educate the public and promote participation in prevention, management, and eradication efforts. Communities can learn about invasive species and how to help protect our natural habitats. 

What are Invasive Species?

Invasive species are non-native organisms that can spread rapidly and cause harm to the environment. While invasive animals like the New Zealand mud snail often capture attention, invasive plants are also of significant concern. Invasive plants can overrun landscapes, outcompete native vegetation, reduce biodiversity, and alter ecosystems. These plants not only disrupt habitats but also impact water resources, agriculture, and recreational areas. Understanding and addressing the challenges posed by invasive plants is crucial for preserving local ecosystems. 

Here are some projects happening at the Estuary Program to address invasive species:

Invasive Species Mapping for Creek Health 

This spring, the Estuary Program funded a project to map invasive species within the shaded creeks of the Chorro Creek subwatershed. Surveyors walked nearly ten stream miles and identified over 250 locations with invasive species. 

We are planning for additional surveys this winter where we will use drone technology to find large invasive species like giant reed (Arundo donax). After the map is completed, we will work with partners and seek additional funding to implement invasive species management. 

Invasive species like cape ivy grow in a dense pattern that can crowd out native plants.

Iceplant Management for Dune Resilience 

Iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) is a coastal succulent shrub native to the coast of South Africa. It can be found throughout California, where it poses a serious threat to local biodiversity. Its thick mats can outcompete native plants, which can change the surrounding soil composition and increase erosion.  

The Estuary Program has been working with partners and volunteers to manage iceplant in the watershed. We have successfully reduced iceplant cover in 33 acres of the Morro Bay sandspit. In some areas, we have seen as much as a 30% reduction in live iceplant cover between our October 2023 and May 2024 vegetation monitoring surveys. While this work is still ongoing, we are very excited by the initial results. 

As part of our Educator Workshop Series, teachers took part in hand removal of iceplant and successfully removed over 3,500 pounds of the invasive plant.

To read more about iceplant in Morro Bay, check out this blog: https://www.mbnep.org/2022/09/23/the-fight-against-ice-plant-revealing-the-morro-bay-dunes/.   

Sea Lavender Removal in Tidal Marsh Habitat 

Another non-native species present in Morro Bay is invasive European sea lavender (Limonium duriusculum). This plant poses a serious threat to biodiversity as its dense growth can quickly displace native plants. Expansion of sea lavender may also threaten localized populations of salt marsh bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimus), which is a rare plant that relies on the unique conditions of Morro Bay tidal marshes. 

The Estuary Program works with volunteer support to survey and manually remove sea lavender from locations throughout the bay. To learn more about this effort, check out this blog: https://www.mbnep.org/2021/08/06/field-updates/ 

Invasive European sea lavender (Limonium duriusculum) can grow quickly and outcompete native species.
Controlling invasive sea lavender is important to prevent loss of sensitive species like salt marsh bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritimum ssp. maritimus) pictured above.

How Can You Help?

Check out the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s CAISAW website for more information on events, games, and resources. Here are some tips from CDFW to help prevent invasive species in your community: 

Help us protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary!