Have you ever wondered why removal of invasive species is so important? When a non-native species enters a habitat, it may be considered invasive if it spreads rapidly and fundamentally alters the structure and function of a habitat. Invasive organisms also outcompete native plants for space and resources such as water, light and nutrients. One example of an invasive plant in the San Francisco Estuary is calledLimonium ramosissimum, or LIRA for short and can be found in the marshes lining the bay.
A native marsh habitat provides the optimal structure and function for the most beneficial productivity to the marsh community. Additionally, a highly functioning marsh accretes soil, absorbs wave action and acts as a biofilter. LIRA has been displacing native marsh plants such as pickleweed without replacing the structure and function pickleweed provides. Native and endangered marsh animals such as the Salt Marsh Harvest mouse depend on native, healthy pickleweed habitat for survival.
For the past 4 years, CuriOdyssey Science Educator, Cat Brett has been leading volunteer projects to remove LIRA in the marsh at Coyote Point. Starting last year, Cat Brett also developed an experiment in the marsh in collaboration with Treatment Program Manager at the Invasive Spartina Project, Drew Kerr to study the efficacy of manual removal in conjunction with herbicide use. This experiment not only benefits wildlife in the marsh, but also the people who live in the Bay Area.
In three successful marsh restoration projects so far in 2017, CuriOdyssey volunteers worked with 60 local high school volunteers and employee volunteers from the Moore Foundation, Wells Fargo and Oracle to remove over 900 gallons of LIRA from Coyote Point marshlands! We have seen pickleweed quickly return to the areas cleared of LIRA and hope to make Coyote Point Marsh LIRA-free with the help of the local community.
If you are interested in participating or learning more about this vital project to protect our natural marsh habitat, contact CuriOdyssey in September for information about the next LIRA removal events.