This project proposes removal of Arundo donax (giant reed) from 175 acres on an extremely important portion of the Santa Clara River in Fillmore, initiating the restoration of a native ecosystem at the site of a critical historic wetland (Sespe Cienega; Beller et al 2011). The primary objective of this project is to protect native riparian woodlands and dependent wildlife from decline and loss owing to dominance by this destructive invasive plant. This area of mature cottonwood‐willow forest is part of a larger property in escrow by the California Wildlife Conservation Board (ownership to be transferred to California Department of Fish and Wildlife) for long‐term protection and enhancement of regionally‐threatened habitat and wildlife species, including multiple listed and candidate species. The woodland is severely impacted by direct competition and water depletion by Arundo, and faces risk of catastrophic loss from Arundo‐ fueled wildfire that could eliminate fire‐intolerant native forest species, as well as be carried into adjacent agricultural lands and coastal sage scrub.
Arundo removal is the first phase of implementation that will re‐create a fully functioning riparian ecosystem necessary for native species, while decreasing the risk of detrimental fires. Arundo removal will also allow native vegetation to recover and sequester excessive nutrients discharged from the fish hatchery, thereby improving water quality before it enters the main channel of the Santa Clara River. Arundo removal will also save significant water resources resulting in increased water availability for sensitive terrestrial and aquatic species, as preliminary data from a nearby site indicated Arundo uses approx. 3‐4 times the amount of water for evapotranspiration (Dudley and Cole 2010, Giessow et al. 2011). These changes will be long lasting and will contribute to the resilience of the ecosystem along the Santa Clara River in the face of potential climate change and natural disturbances.