Restoring What Once Was
By: Audrey Rader, BRN Watershed Program Manager
Winding roads, less than two thousand feet of elevation gain, and a short hike brought us to a legacy-mine in Mansfield Canyon. This area was historically home to oaks, junipers, pines, and a diverse understory of grasses and forbs. Looking out across the landscape, one can still see breathtaking remnants of these populations. Mining activity removed much of this vegetation though, leaving it vulnerable to erosion and invasion by non-native plant species. That's where we come in.
Borderlands Restoration Network has an agreement with Coronado National Forest helping provide native seed, planting, watering, and weed control services for the treatment area. On the day in question, we had arrived to remove some weeds that were dominating the site. The primary weeds on the landscape were stinkgrass (Eragrostis cilianensis) and Indian lovegrass (Eragrostis pilosa). Both stinkgrass and Indian lovegrass are from Eurasia and Africa and have been introduced to nearly all of North America. These annual grasses have another thing in common: both readily take root in disturbed areas and have the ability to disperse quickly and broadly. Perhaps most memorably, according to one crew member's field guide, crushed stinkgrass smells like cockroaches. We'll take the field guide's word on that one.
Invasive plants spread quickly, can form monocultures (lowering biodiversity), and can displace native plants. Our hope is that removing weeds will lessen the likelihood of these plants contributing seed to the seed bank, reduce their spread, and make room for native grasses, forbs, and shrubs in this disturbed area. Over the course of three days, the crew treated the entire site, just one small step of many in restoring the treatment area to a trajectory of recovery and resiliency.
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