UPDATE: Restoring Habitat for the Endangered Amargosa Vole – Watching the Bulrush Grow (Pt. 2)

WIL and UC Davis just completed their one-year followup to last year’s emergency efforts to restore and rescue Marsh 1, one of the largest and most important habitat patches for the endangered Amargosa vole. That effort included reflooding the marsh, clearing out debris from dead plants, and relocating resident voles into nearby marshes during the restoration.

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Senescent plant stems, called standing litter, show evidence of last season’s growth. Photo credit: Stephanie Castle (CDFW)

In addition to checking in on the voles that were relocated during the restoration work (see our “Update Pt. 1” for more details), the team assessed the progress of Marsh 1 after the restoration. We monitored  water levels in the marsh by measuring the area of the marsh that was still flooded with standing water, as well as measuring how far below the surface the water table is in areas without standing water. Our measurements showed some great news! – water levels were just as high this year as they were last year right after the restoration.  This will help to foster a healthy crop of three-square bulrush (Schoenoplectus americanus), the plant vital to survival of the Amargosa voles.

 

Three-square bulrush is a perennial plant, its leaves die back (aka “senesce”) each winter, kind of like a deciduous tree or a lily. Because it was still so early in the growing season, we expected the bulrush hadn’t started sending up new shoots just yet. When we got out into the marsh, we actually saw a bunch of little green bulrush stems just starting to peek out of the soil. In fact, we saw twice as much bulrush this year as we have seen in previous years.

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Image of Marsh 1, 1-year post restoration. It is still early in the season and has just started popping up, but standing litter from last season’s growth shows us the extent of plant restoration. Photo credit: Stephanie Castle (CDFW).

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but underneath all of the senesced plants from last year’s growth there were lots and lots of 4-5 inch tall stems. CDFW-WIL researchers are excited to see how much bulrush we will have in the marsh this year once the plants are in full swing (July-August). We will keep you updated this summer!

The success of this program has continued to highlight how productive partnerships between agencies, universities, non-profits, and communities can positively benefit the conservation of endangered species.

The translocations and restoration were funded by the BLM (partially through NCLS funds), and Drought Response Implementation Program (DRIP) funds from CDFW.

Prepared by: Stephanie Castle (CDFW/UC Davis)

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