Greens at Work volunteers continue their labor of love in removing aggressive non-native Algerian sea lavender (Limonium ramosissimum, a.k.a. LIRA) from six sites along the East Bay shoreline. We started this work as an alternative to proposed herbicide use in a sensitive area along the Albany-Richmond bayshore.
Each LIRA site where we work is different in size, accessibility, extent of initial infestation, and onset of our work. And at any given time there is also a fascinating range of LIRA sizes. On one day this past May, for example, we encountered carpets of infinitesimally tiny seedlings, single cheerio-sized seedlings that were already in bud, small- and medium-sized seedlings in bud, and three- to five-inch-diameter seedlings just about ready to bloom.
Starting in April and May of this year, we focused on seedlings that were in bud, but we also targeted the thick carpets of LIRA seedlings that surround the gorgeous native California sea lavender (Limonium californicum). The LIRA seedlings smother, confine, and eventually exclude the native plants. If you listen closely, you can practically hear the California sea lavenders’ sighs of relief as we set them free.
At all six sites there is now a noticeable increase in native California sea lavender. At the Riprap Jetty site, we also see an increase in native sticky sand spurry (Spergularia macrotheca).
Lessons we are learning
We’ve never been fans of the use of herbicides and other pesticides. And we know how contentious that subject can be, even within CNPS. Our LIRA work started in the summer of 2019 after we learned that a contractor had been applying herbicides at a site we are currently stewarding.
What we’ve learned from our efforts is that our hand removal of LIRA plants has been more effective than the prior application of herbicides had been. In spite of herbicide treatment of LIRA at the South Shore Point Isabel site in the year 2019 (before we began our work) more than 160,000 plants have reappeared since the last herbicides were applied. The type of herbicide applied at the LIRA site kills living plants, but the long-lived, buried seed of an invasive species may germinate and grow each year for many years. Under these circumstances, you might think herbicides would be effective if they were applied repeatedly and regularly; however, it has been our experience that herbicide treatment is generally tied to short-term funding that is not always available. Also, a growing body of evidence shows that the continued application of herbicides and other pesticides into sensitive habitats—with all the life that exists in these areas, both seen and unseen—has harmed insect and other populations no matter how strongly the pesticide industry denies that its poisons are responsible for the decline in these populations.
South Shore Point Isabel
So, if pesticides are not the solution for removing LIRA along the Albany-Richmond shoreline, what is? Well, the answer is right in front of us. Manually removing invasive plants is the solution. This year, Cal-IPC engaged a Civicorps crew to spend about 78 person-hours over the course of several days to remove a LIRA infestation in the area between the Albany Bulb and the South Shore of Point Isabel. The use of teams like Civicorps is an important part of the solution.
Volunteers, of course, are also a big part of the solution. There are so many ways each of us can help. Volunteering consistently for something, removing weeds, donating, educating ourselves, adopting a spot in our neighborhoods and turning it into a habitat, getting a picker and going after the trash in a commercial area or along the Bay shoreline all make a difference. The great thing is we don’t need to be part of an organization to take on any of those projects, we can do it on our own or with a friend. And once we get started, it is really quite amazing how soon we begin to look forward to tackling these types of issues. Our CNPS East Bay Chapter has a number of volunteer opportunities if you’re looking for something associated with native plants, so don’t hesitate to reach out to CNPS East Bay to see how you can plug in.
In addition to the 843,875 Algerian lavender seedlings removed, we have now reached a total of 330 huge garbage bags of trash collected. We have also removed several thousand pounds of driftwood (plywood, telephone poles, broken hulls of boats). Kudos to volunteer Rob Kirby for doing much of that work. Our sincere thanks also to the truly wonderful, dedicated volunteers who join us in this LIRA removal project.
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In recent, related news, the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, has ruled that the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s pesticide progrmamatic EIR is unlawful. For background, see our November 2021 Bay Leaf article.
— Jane and Tom Kelly, Greens at Work