Photos & Article By: Jei Florentino
The Bolsa Chica Conservancy conducts a plethora of restoration events in order to restore the wetlands. Although the Conservancy normally leads invasive plant removal, trash-pickup, and occasionally native plant installation events, we have also been working on a soil remediation project!
Those of you who have hiked the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve trails may have noticed a large, elevated, and barren overlook near the tide gates. This man-made structure was created from dredged material from the Bolsa Chica Wetlands which has resulted in all-around poor soil quality, including extremely high acidity and salinity levels as well as low levels of nutrients and organic matter. All these factors ultimately prevented native terrestrial plants from growing. The Conservancy began restoration efforts on the overlook in 2007, but was unable to successfully install plants.
In 2015, the Conservancy restarted its restoration efforts on a small test plot on the overlook. In order to improve salinity and acidity within the test plot, staff and volunteers first had to irrigate the test plot by hand. To improve nutrient availability, compost and other soil amendments were added. Hundreds of gallons of water and one rainy season later, the test plot was finally planted in June 2016 and is currently being monitored and irrigated until the plants are able to sustain themselves. The goal of the project is to eventually install native plants on the entire overlook.
The installation of native plants on Rabbit Island Overlook will not only improve the aesthetic value for visitors but will also provide a type of habitat island for many insects. Seaside Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum), Alkali Heath (Frankenia salina), Salt grass (Distichlis spicata), and many other flowering species have been installed in the test plot. These will provide a food source and resting stop for the wetland’s local pollinators including bees, beetles, butterflies, and moths. If the entire overlook is planted, the larger numbers of insects may attract larger animals such as birds and even small mammals to the area and ultimately provide a more dynamic experience for visitors.