Cottonwood-willow restoration at the Cienega Springs Ecological Reserve

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Agency Name
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
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Area/s of Research
Ecology and Evolution

This project will restore over seventeen (17) acres of willow-cottonwood and related riparian habitat in Management Units 5 and 6 of the Cienega Springs Ecological Reserve (CSER; Figures 1-3 below). The project area is located in Fillmore, CA adjacent to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fillmore Fish Hatchery and is the site of a former watercress farm. All of the project elements are fully described in the 100% Design and Technical Report that was completed in 2021. Hatchery outflow runs along the western border of the project area and into the broader CSER property. The outflow channel will be diverted (relocated) upstream several hundred meters to allow outflow water to have longer residence time on the site, increase percolation and groundwater recharge, and enhance biological filtration of organic matter. Relocation will also increase soil moisture across the project area, which is necessary for reestablishing riparian dependent trees. Weed removal will occur throughout the project period with an early emphasis on removing invasive woody vegetation and a sustained effort to reduce the abundance of herbaceous weeds. Native willow-cottonwood and riparian forest communities will be restored by planting tree pole cuttings and potted plants sourced from within the watershed and by spreading seeds and encouraging passive recruitment where feasible. Tree genotypes that have greater drought resistance traits will be used to promote resiliency during the dry periods that are characteristic of this system and that are anticipated to increase with climate change. Monitoring will occur throughout the project period to ensure regulatory compliance and protection of biological resources, to adaptively manage the project, and to confirm progress toward project goals.