You might be asking yourself, “What exactly is a ‘weed-shaped hole’, and why is it the title of a 2012 TGIF funded Strawberry Creek Project? Well, the weed-shaped hole is a result of the very successful Strawberry Creek Restoration Program (SCRP), in which hundreds of UC Berkeley students and volunteers have lent their time and skills to removing some of the most problematic invasive species (notably English and Algerian ivy). Normally, when these species were removed, native plants were not planted in their place, and the invasive species were easily able to recolonize the “weed-shaped hole.” The hole needed to be filled with native plants which would bloom with biodiversity- this is where the project team stepped in, to fill the hole by planting native plants. The Strawberry Creek Restoration Program was able to work with ESPM Professor Dr. Katharine Suding and her restoration ecology lab to determine the best native plant species to compete with ivy. Together, they identified over 40 species in a nursery based on functional traits (e.g. leaf area, stomatal conductance, root to shoot ratio) that use resources similar to the way ivy uses resources. SCRP now has a database of plant functional traits that can be used in the future.
Well over 250 volunteers have served over 450 hours removing ivy and other invasive species and have sheet mulched (a layered mulch system that nurtures the soil) over 100 square meters along Strawberry Creek! Volunteers have also planted 348 native plant species in four main areas along the creek 500 plants in other sites along the creek. This work was all recorded for the future benefit of SCRP, and will soon be published in Restoration Ecology. The hard work of the Strawberry Creek volunteers is not going unnoticed. Nathan Bickart, a project lead, presented this work to the Advisory Board for the College of Natural Resources and at the annual CACS summit. Dr. Katharine Suding shared the work in guest lectures to several ecology classes on-campus and at the 2012 Society for Conservation Biology meeting held in Oakland, CA. Another project lead, Lauren Hallett, will share this work at the 2013 National Conference on Ecological Restoration in Chicago, IL, and at the 2013 Society for Ecological Restoration conference in Madison, WI. Check out Strawberry Creek as soon as possible, because the new biodiversity is not only helping our land, but is beautiful as well!