Threatened species of plants and birds near the Coal Oil Point Reserve may soon recover from their damaged habitats with the help of a few recent monetary grants to local restoration efforts.
The Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a union of 17 federal and state agencies aimed at the protection and restoration of California’s diminishing wetlands, recently announced that it would allocate $9,500 to conservation efforts taking place at near the Devereaux Slough section of Coal Oil Point Reserve, located west of Isla Vista. An additional $30,000 will go toward the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens Toro Canyon project to fund the eradication of eight acres of an invasive, nonnative species of ivy.
The Coal Oil Point Reserve project, headed by the Santa Barbara Audubon society, is in its sixth year of operation, working toward the enhancement and preservation of the natural wetlands ecosystem in the area. Reserve Director Christina Sandoval said the cooperation of the Audubon Society and the Wetlands Recovery Project is essential to the progress being made at Coal Oil Point Reserve.
“The Coal Oil Point Reserve works with a limited budget for the number of challenges we need to meet, Sandoval said. “The cooperation with the SB Audubon and the WRP allows us to perform tasks beyond the regular maintenance. Also, Audubon has been great at attracting student and community volunteers to work at the reserve. This helps fulfill the university’s mission of education and outreach.”
The project’s main goal is to restore a natural habitat for the numerous native species, especially plants and migrating birds that once called the slough, and nearby Sands beach, home, she said.
“[The Reserve] has several habitat types which provide home for a diverse fauna and flora, including four species listed as threatened or endangered,” Sandoval said. “Threats from invasive plants, unregulated recreation, pollution and pets have degraded the fauna and flora. Our goal has been to bring the reserve’s biodiversity back.”
The project near Devereux, however, is most widely known for its efforts to restore the population of the snowy plover, which is currently listed as an threatened species. Its members also guard the large, roped off section of Sands Beach.
Santa Barbara Audubon Society President Darlene Chirman said she is proud of the progress the Coal Oil project has made.
“[The project] is doing remarkably well,” she said. “Last year saw the largest bird populations we have seen in many, many years. Remarkably, we had 11 or 12 pairs of breeding [snowy plovers]. This is much higher than the predicted two pairs and higher than in any previous year.”
While the restoration efforts occasionally create roped-off areas by the Reserve’s beaches, Darlene Chirman said the precautions were necessary to protect native species.
“The kind of places people hang out happen to also be the place these birds need to breed,” she said. “There is a need to find a balance where we can use the area while still allowing the birds to breed uninterrupted.”
Some of the reserve’s recently acquired monies will also be used to fund efforts to remove non-native plant species near the mouth of the slough. This includes removing invasive shrubs and ice plants and then replacing them with native dune plants and grasses.