Native Grassland Restoration at NCOS
Restored native grassland on the upper portion of South Parcel Mesa.
Although the North Campus Open Space (NCOS) restoration project centers around the expansion of the Devereux Slough salt marsh, a variety of plant communities will be restored throughout the process. One of the largest restoration areas of NCOS, second to the salt marsh community, is the Native Grassland Complex. Encompassing nearly 20 acres on the South Parcel Mesa, this complex will primarily be grassland but will also include vernal pools, small colonies of coastal sage scrub species, and patches of upland clay annuals. In addition to the South Parcel Mesa, approximately 2 acres of grassland will be restored along the northern project boundary. As less than 1% of California native grasslands remain today, these restored areas will be especially rare and valuable habitat.
Left image: Purple Needle Crass (Stipa pulchra), Right image: California brome (Bromus carinatus).
The restored grassland areas on the South Parcel Mesa will be dominated by purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra), the state grass of California, with some areas sparsely vegetated by annual forbs. Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) will be the primary grass along the northern edge of the site. Other native grasses slated for planting include California brome (Bromus carinatus), blue wild rye (Elymus glaucus), creeping wild rye (Elymus triticoides) and California barley (Hordeum brachyantherum ssp. Californicum).
Left image: Salt grass (Distichlis spicata), Right image: Blue Wild Rye (Elymus glaucus).
Native grasslands are important for maintenance of biodiversity and provide host plants for butterfly larvae. These areas also offer habitat for herpetofauna, including lizards and snakes like the California kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae), as well as for small native mammals like the California vole (Microtus californicus). Raptors such as the white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) and northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) use grasslands for foraging areas.
Left image: California king snake (Lampropeltis californiae), Right image: White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus)
A variety of strategies will be employed to achieve optimal grassland restoration at NCOS. In areas with gentle or gradual slopes, machinery assisted techniques such as drill seeding and plug planting will likely be used. Conversely, where the slopes are too steep for machine assistance, broadcast seeding and hand planting of container stock will be implemented.
Drill seeding native grassland on the upper portion of South Parcel Mesa.
For more info on this rare and important California habitat, check out CCBER’s Grassland page, which includes more photos of grassland plants and wildlife.
Want to learn more about the NCOS Restoration Project? The NCOS website has links to the full restoration plan, our NCOS News page will keep you up to date, and check out these past blogs for more background: What is a salt marsh?, the hydrology of Devereux Slough, and Wildlife Benefits of NCOS.