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Environmental Perspective on Creation and Restoration

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Environmental Perspective on Creation and Restoration Carol W. Witham, VernalPools.Org www.vernalpools.org – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Environmental Perspective on Creation and Restoration


1
Environmental Perspective on Creation and
Restoration
Carol W. Witham, VernalPools.Org
www.vernalpools.org
2
Special Considerations pertaining to California
vernal pools
  • 87 of this ecosystem has already been lost
  • On-site avoidance results in highly fragmented
    postage stamp preserves that are difficult to
    manage
  • No net loss mitigation often results in
    unnatural vernal pool densities
  • Loss of the upland matrix can cause adverse
    impacts to critical ecosystem functions
  • We can create puddles, but are they really vernal
    pools?

www.vernalpools.org
3
National Research Council on wetland creation
and restoration
  • In June 2001, the National Research Council (NRC)
    issued a report entitled Compensating for
    Wetland Losses under the Clean Water Act. Some of
    the important conclusions from this report
    include
  • Some wetland types are difficult to recreate
  • Mitigation wetlands are often designed too wet
  • Mitigation often fails to consider watershed
    function
  • Decreases in available land may lead to conflict

www.vernalpools.org
4
Regulatory Guidance Letter Corps response to
the NRC report
  • On October 31, 2001, the U.S. Army Corps of
    Engineers issued a Regulatory Guidance Letter
    (RGL) addressing the need to increase the
    effectiveness and compliance of mitigation
    through
  • An ecosystem approach that considers watersheds
  • Mitigation as functional debits and credits
  • Preservation of threatened wetlands as mitigation
  • Off-site and out-of-kind mitigation may be
    appropriate
  • Raphanos decision and guidance???

www.vernalpools.org
5
Endangered Species Act FWS frowns on out-of-kind
mitigation
  • Despite the Corps Regulatory Guidance Letter
    suggesting that off-site and out-of-kind
    mitigation may be appropriate for to (re)create
    wetlands, vernal pools are endangered species
    habitat

www.vernalpools.org
6
Recent Improvements in approach and design
  • Since 2001, regulators have moved away from the
    on-site mitigation and consultants have worked
    hard to create more natural looking landscapes
  • Fewer postage stamp preserves with the pools
    packed in like sardines
  • Improvements in design have lead to more
    natural looking mitigation wetlands
  • Off-site mitigation and banking allows for larger
    landscapes and enhanced management

www.vernalpools.org
7
More Improvements Needed to ensure that
mitigation is effective
  • Right now we are still operating on a wish and a
    prayer that the restored and created vernal pools
    are recreating what is being lost.
  • No one is gathering sufficient information about
    the impact site
  • Mitigation success criteria are too vague and
    monitoring is too short
  • Translocation of species may be a genetic
    ticking time bomb

www.vernalpools.org
8
Insufficient Baseline Information about the
impact and mitigation sites
  • We dont know enough about what is being lost to
    make any reasonable determination of whether or
    not mitigation is working or adequate.
  • Species distribution abundance and persistence
  • Vegetation communities not just plants
  • Hydrology vernal pools are usually in complexes
  • Ecosystem processes functions and values
  • Metapopulation dynamics local extirpation and
    recolonization mechanisms

www.vernalpools.org
9
Simplistic Success Criteria in a very complicated
ecosystem
  • Because we have not taken the time to study the
    dynamics of the vernal pool ecosystem, success is
    generally based on a few superficial factors.
  • Does it hold water in the winter time, dry down
    in the spring and become desiccated in the
    summer?
  • Does it have a predominance of plants associated
    with vernal pools and an absence of marsh plants?
  • Does it contain one or more of the listed vernal
    pool crustaceans?

www.vernalpools.org
10
Inappropriate Monitoring Timeline to ensure that
the mitigation is successful
  • Generally, the required monitoring period to
    determine if the mitigation is successful is only
    5 to 10 years.
  • Vernal pool organisms have a persistent seed/cyst
    bank
  • Current practice is to inoculate the (re)created
    pools
  • 5 or even 10 years is not enough time to tell
    whether the populations are sufficiently viable
    to be replacing the seed/cyst bank, or whether it
    is just being depleted
  • Most mitigation sites have declined over time

www.vernalpools.org
11
Translocation Issues vernal pools are like
clusters of islands
  • The further apart they are, the more their
    resident populations may have evolved unique
    genetic traits.
  • The practice of translocating seeds/cysts from
    one area to another could have significant
    consequences
  • Genetic swamping of closely related species
  • Crossbreeding that leads to mortality/extirpation
  • We have no idea how far is too far to be moving
    these organisms around

www.vernalpools.org
12
Innovative New Ideas to overcome some of the
problematic issues
  • Study the soils and aquatard of the mitigation
    site
  • Design pools as hydrologically interconnected
    complexes
  • Use local inoculum to preserve genetic integrity
  • Use only small amounts of inoculum
  • Base success criteria on demonstrating that the
    plant and animal populations are increasing over
    time
  • Manage for ecosystem function, not individual
    species

www.vernalpools.org
13
California Vernal Pools an ecosystem in peril
  • Difficult to recreate all functions

www.vernalpools.org
14
An Environmentalists Perspective increase
preservation ratios
  • Vernal pool (re)creation is an inexact
    pseudoscience and will remain so into the
    foreseeable future. In the mean time we are
    losing natural vernal pools.
  • 86,000 acres converted between 1997 and 2005
  • 63 of those losses were unregulated
  • 21,000 acres in some stage of the planning
    process in Sacramento County alone
  • It just makes more common sense to preserve the
    real thing instead of assuming that mitigation is
    adequate

www.vernalpools.org
15
Advantages of Preservation instead of in-kind
mitigation
  • Large-scale preservation of vernal pool
    landscapes in lieu of current in-kind, no net
    loss mitigation provides numerous environmental
    advantages.
  • Takes a holistic, watershed approach to
    mitigation
  • Preserves full complement of ecosystem values
    including critical upland matrix functions
  • Larger area-to-edge ratio helps maintain
    integrity
  • No net loss can be achieved through out-of-kind
    (i.e. seasonal marsh) wetland buffers

www.vernalpools.org
16
Disadvantages of Preservation over the status quo
  • Large-scale preservation of vernal pool
    landscapes will also provide new challenges for
    regulators, land use authorities, developers,
    planners, environmentalists, and consultants.
  • Requires long-term and large-scale planning
  • Can be more expensive than on-site mitigation
    unless third party preservation banks are
    available
  • Will result in the overall loss of some vernal
    pools and the species that occupy them

www.vernalpools.org
17
How much Preservation? current vernal pool
mitigation ratios
  • Vernal pools are typically subject to both U.S.
    Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and
    Wildlife Service mitigation requirements. For
    smaller projects in fragmented or degraded
    habitat the usual mitigation requirement is
  • 21 preservation of vernal pool wetted acres, and
  • 11 (or greater) recreation to satisfy no net
    loss
  • These rations are being applied to very large
    projects
  • May result in the loss of 33 of all natural
    vernal pools and indirect degradation of the
    remaining 67

www.vernalpools.org
18
Preservation Ratios how much more can we afford
to lose?
2 1
3 1
4 1
The Recovery Plan for Vernal Pool Ecosystems of
California and Southern Oregon (USFWS 2005) calls
for protection of 85 or 95 of vernal pool
habitat within numerous large core recovery
units. That translates to 6.51 and 191.
10 1
www.vernalpools.org
19
A Conservation Strategy for California vernal
pools
  • Given the current condition of only 87
    remaining, and the speculative nature of
    (re)creation, it is imperative to formulate a
    vernal pool mitigation and preservation strategy
    that maximizes protection of the remaining vernal
    pool landscapes in California. To achieve vernal
    pool conservation, we must strive toward
  • A comprehensive vernal pool classification system
    that includes quantitative assessment of function
    and value
  • Knowledge and distribution of locally rare vernal
    pool types and special status vernal pool endemic
    species

www.vernalpools.org
20
A Conservation Strategy for California vernal
pools (continued)
  • An understanding of larger scale watershed
    function and value with respect to vernal pool
    preservation areas
  • Increased knowledge of landscape-scale vernal
    pool hydrology and how disruptions might impact
    long-term ecosystem viability
  • What is the balance between the desire to
    preserve wetlands and endangered species habitat
    with the need to feed and house our growing
    population?

www.vernalpools.org
21
VernalPools.Org dedicated to saving Californias
vernal pool landscapes
For additional information, contact Carol W.
Witham VernalPools.Org Info_at_vernalpools.org
www.vernalpools.org
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