I have some news that may be of interest to many here. This is a long posting, so for the attention-deficit crowd, here are the main points:
- The historic Albion, California bog is a globally important place;
- CPers have been introducing plants against the wishes of the landowners;
- The CP that can be removed, will be removed;
- Plants are being donated to UC Berkeley, future introductions will be destroyed; and
- Locally native species and habitat get priority.
It is no secret that, for many years, carnivorous plant growers have been using the pygmy forests near Albion, California, as a place to deposit carnivorous plants. This has been a controversial activity within the carnivorous plant community. After years of gently discouraging this activity, the staff of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) managing this site are now taking a more active role.
First, some background on the site. It occurs in an area called the "pygmy forest ecological staircase" because of the set of terraces that rise from the coastline to the top of the coastal mountain ranges. The soils on each progressively higher terrace differ in age by about 100,000 years. As you might expect, each step also supports distinct natural communities. The top of the ranges have the oldest (500,000 year old) soils, which are highly weathered and are very nutrient poor.
TNC was first attracted to the area in 1966 because the top of the ecological staircase contains a globally rare community of pygmy Mendocino cypress (Cupressus pigmaea) and Bishop pine (Pinus muricata). This site is special because it is the culmination of a long process of uninterrupted ecosystem evolution that began in the early Pleistocene. Unfortunately, it was this important area that carnivorous plant growers have been planting non-native carnivorous plants. These carnivorous plant enthusiasts were drawn to the area because of its accessibility to the Bay Area, and also because it has Sphagnum hummocks that support native populations of Drosera rotundifolia. (Utricularia gibba also is found in the area and is also probably native.) Most of the carnivorous plant species introduced to the area are not invasive. However, some of them are the most invasive of all carnivorous plants; the list includes species such as Utricularia subulata, Drosera capensis, and Drosera binata. These species, none of which are endangered in their native habitats, have as-yet unknown impacts on the pygmy forest community, although some evidence suggests they may be displacing the native Drosera rotundifolia.
As the owners of these lands, TNC does not approve of the planting of non-native species on their lands. It is in opposition with their conservation goals for the habitat. Over the years, TNC managers have encountered carnivorous plant enthusiasts planting out non-native species on the property and have told them to stop. However, the process has been continuing. This year, newly planted populations of the highly invasive Utricularia bisquamata have been discovered, so it is clear that carnivorous plant enthusiasts are continuing to introduce even invasive species to the property.
TNC is now taking a more proactive stance in discouraging the planting of non-native carnivorous plant species at this site. They have removed all the Sarracenia and Dionaea they could find from the site. In order to avoid killing these plants, TNC coordinated with the ICPS to donate plants to the University of California at Berkeley. However, in the future, TNC staff intend to simply pull and kill any additional plants they might find at the site.
Darlingtonia californica has also been introduced to the bog. It is not native to this part of California. This plant has been introduced in such large numbers that removal of them is difficult. A large concern is how the plants can be removed without damaging the soil structure any more than is necessary. A number of mechanical approaches are being implemented.
Meanwhile, the populations of (probably ineradicable) species, such as Drosera capensis, are being mapped and monitored. These baseline measurements will help determine if the populations are expanding and if more aggressive control measures must be taken to prevent further spread.
Similarly, the populations of the many other species that have been planted at the site will be evaluated, and control options will be implemented.
It is not TNC's desire to have to destroy these marvelous carnivorous plants. In fact, TNC has many preserves in the eastern USA that are set up to protect these species. But the native communities of California are also important, and TNC feels that it is worthwhile to work to maintain them in a natural state. As such, it is important for carnivorous plant growers to stop planting non-native species in wild lands such as the Albion bogs. Every dollar that TNC (and the ICPS) spends to remove non-native carnivorous plants from preserves, is money that TNC (and the ICPS!) could spend protecting these species in their native ranges.
Iíll be happy to keep readers posted on future developments.