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Park And US Navy Work To Restore Rare Plant Habitat

Cabrillo National Monument

National Park News

Cabrillo National Monument is partnering with its neighbor, the United States Navy, to restore endangered native plant habitat along San Diego’s Point Loma Peninsula.  The San Diego coastline is home to rare coastal sage scrub and southern maritime chaparral plant communities, but intense residential and commercial development has greatly reduced the extent of native vegetation in southern San Diego County.   

The partnership kicked off with the removal of invasive plant species at the Third Fleet Headquarters with Navy Base Point Loma’s environmental team.  Cabrillo National Monument, the Thi rd Fleet and at least three other agencies reside on about 840 acres of protected land called the Point Loma Ecological Conservation Area, or PLECA.  Most intact native landscapes are now limited to such natural reserves.

Efforts are underway to make the 160 acres of PLECA land managed by the National Park Service weed free by the Service’s centennial in 2016 and that goal is close to being attained.

“We are well on our way to eradicating our most substantial invasive plant populations here in the park,” said Keith Lombardo, the park’s chief of natural resources. “However, to maintain our weed-free status we need to control the invasive populations that surround the park that serve as a source for future invasions.   Working together with our neighbors helps us to achieve our mission and strengthens the native ecologies outside of the park, which ultimately benefits the entire Point Loma peninsula”.   

The project involved the removal of invasive acacia trees and ice plant.  Invasive plants threaten to disturb the delicate ecological balance within these reserves.  Aggressively removing the invaders is a critical component of reserve management and upkeep.   

“Any time we can work with the park is good,” said Navy biologist Andrew Wastell.  “It’s good to combine our efforts anytime we can. We are trying to achieve the same goals and this is working out really well.”

Wastell said the project supports the Navy’s mission of environmental stewardship and eco-based management.   Bimonthly habitat restoration projects are being planned and all involved believe that a strong foundation for a long-term partnership has been established.

Wastell and Lombardo planted native species such as lemonade berry, black sage, California buckwheat and dudleya to take the place of the removed invasive plants, or weeds.  Both biologists expressed appreciation for the volunteer military involvement. 

Cryptologic Technician First Class Daniel Coe’s team of the Third Fleet command removed 40 cubic yards of invasive plant biomass.  One of the team members, Intelligent Specialist Third Class Reynaldo Santana Polanco described the importance of his involvement in removing the invasive plants: “What we do is serve.  We serve the community, not just during war.  The environmental aspects of community service are just as much a part of it.  We want to be there to make this country better.”  


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