One of CCBER's westernmost sites, South Parcel is situated between Coal Oil Point Reserve and Ellwood Mesa. This 68-acre site was initially preserved as natural open space in 2007 to serve as mitigation for the North Campus Faculty Housing Project. The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and UCSB then negotiated a conservation easement in 2010 which called for the land to be restored, and since then CCBER's accomplished teams have been hard at work improving the habitats in this area.
Like many CCBER management sites, there are multiple habitat types present in South Parcel. Riparian woodland and freshwater marshes reside next to coastal sage scrub and grasslands, with a unique coastal dune area present as well. These diverse habitats provide vital nesting and hunting grounds for several special status raptor species, including Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed hawk) and Elanus leucurus (White-tailed kite).
As South Parcel is located so far from the CCBER Greenhouse, the shed area contains a shade cloth zone where native plants slated for restorative planting are grown out to a sturdy size. The bright green young plants in the above right photo are purple needlegrass, or Stipa pulchra, the state grass of California. These perennial bunchgrasses are valued for their ability to conserve topsoil and likely composed much of historic grasslands. Amazingly, these diminutive plants can live over 200 years and send roots down twenty feet into the earth.
However, not all restorative planting at South Parcel is done using the grown out plants. To restore more grassland faster, a technique called drill seeding is utilized. In drill seeding, specialized planting equipment that deposits seeds in the ground in rows is dragged behind a truck or tractor. Although developed for agriculture, drill seeding can be utilized for restoration purposes if enough native seed is present. As the amount of wild seed collected was not near enough to satisfy these needs, native seeds had to be "bulked out" at offsite facilities run by other companies. Bulking out means that a single generation of native plants are grown solely to harvest seed from. This process can yield over 10 times the seed amount possible with wild collecting and allows for extensive restoration planting.
South Parcel hosts a plethora of vernal pool sites in varying stages of ecological restoration. Sites are chosen based off topographical and watershed characteristics, with other factors such as plant composition accounted for as well. Once the site is graded and the depression established, the banks of the pool are planted with native plant species to prevent erosion. The impermeable clay soils keep water from draining, with pools lasting late into the spring if there is adequate winter rain. As you can see, recent storms have filled these vernal pools and left their soils in the perfect condition for planting.
Photo taken by Beau Tindall
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