Wednesday, October 9, 2013

habitat ~ 10/09/13 ~ Elkhorn Slough - NERR

Elkhorn Slough - National Estuarine Research Reserve entrance

We weren't sure if Elkhorn would be open considering the federal government shutdown.  Unlike many people, the only impact that we've noticed for us has been closed parks.  We had hoped to camp at Pinnacles National Park during fall break, but we scrapped those plans with the shutdown.  My backup plan was to go to nearby Kirby Park if the NERR was closed, but it wasn't.  What surprised me was to see folks in CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Game) uniforms.  I don't know how I missed that.  Elkhorn Slough confuses me as to which agency does/owns what.  Apparently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also involved.  After inquiring, come to find out the Nature Center is run by CADFG.  I did not know that. They do a nice job. 

The tide was very high during our visit.  One of the main walkways was almost covered in water.  I don't get too excited about the proliferation of invasive plants here, like poison hemlock, but for some reason I still want to go back to visit the Slough.  I've even come to like the soothing rattling sound of wind-blown dried harding grass.  It looked like they had recently done some extensive mowing.  They have an incredibly work-intensive management plan.  I think I'd feel defeated if I worked there.  It could be coincidental, but it seems like we've seen less and less wildlife (snakes and rabbits) in recent years since they've stepped up their attempts to get rid of invasive plants.

All surrounding the Slough, the farmers are just now covering their lands with a fresh round of plastic (seen in the middle picture above on the surrounding hills) for another planting of strawberries, one of Monterey County's most valuable crops.  This type of plasticulture really bothers me.  The waste generated must be incredible.  I've been wondering if anyone makes biodegradable plastic for strawberry farming.  If I did it, I'd make it so the farmer could till the plastic into the soil as a soil replenisher.  I bet the chemistry wouldn't be too difficult to figure out.  The biggest hurdle would be to invest in an efficient manufacturing process so that it would be cost effective for the farmers.


Imperfect and Tense said...

Katie, that's an interesting change to notice. Is the inference that the snakes and rabbits preferred the invasive vegetation structure?

Katie (Nature ID) said...

It's hard to say why we aren't seeing snakes and rabbits. You know my views already that I think it's counter-productive to kill things simply because it's deemed unwanted by humans. In the process of clearing out invasives by mechanical and chemical means, they're also destroying habitat that obviously housed wildlife. However, my observation could merely be a product of the timing of our random visits, morning vs. afternoon, spring vs. autumn? Or maybe all the chemicals they use on the surrounding strawberry fields are making their way into the food chain? Or a combination of all the above?