Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Scott Steinmaus

Abstract

The Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Complex (GNDC) is located within the California Floristic Province, a biodiversity hotspot characterized by high rates of endemism and exceptional loss of habitat. In 1980, the US Fish and Wildlife Service described the GNDC as, “the most unique and fragile ecosystem in the State of California,” and ranked it first on a list of 49 habitat areas needing state protection. It is the largest coastal dune area in California and it is one of the last remaining, relatively intact ecosystems of its type and size in the western United States. The growing recognition of species decline and the limited number of dollars allocated to conservation and restoration have led to development of new conservation planning software and conservation strategies. Marxan and Zonation were selected for this project due to their worldwide acceptance in biodiversity conservation planning as well as their specialization in identifying priority zones for conservation. This document describes the unique use of conservation planning software to select areas for resource allocation. It outlines the process of selecting conservation targets, the habitats and species important to overall health of an ecosystem, by using the expert involvement approach. Most importantly, this document outlines areas of high biodiversity that will later be used to allocate resources for the preservation and protection of biodiversity within the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Complex. Introduced species are the second-leading cause (after habitat degradation/loss), causing or contributing to the decline in species abundance and diversity. Ehrharta calycina Smith has become highly invasive in the coastal dune communities of Central and Southern California and currently holds a “high” CAL-IPC inventory rating, defined as a species with severe ecological impacts on physical processes, plant and animal communities and vegetation structure as well as reproductive biology and other attributes conducive to moderate to high rates of dispersal and establishment. Ehrharta calycina is a prolific seeder and stores its seeds annually in the soil, collecting a substantial seedbank. Little is known about E.calycina outside its native range, as its invasion into California coastal ecosystem is fairly recent. A field experiment in the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Complex assessed the contribution of seeds originating from the seedbank as compared to seeds from above ground either dropping from maternal plants or blown in from outside the plots to the establishment of new E. calycina cover. After a nine month perios, new E. calycina cover from both sources was not significantly different. Visible coverage of E. calycina began 77 days (November 24, 2015) after plot installation. After nine months of surveying, coverage reached 19% in the Seedbank Present treatment and 21% in the Seedbank Absent treatment. There was no significant effect associated with the slope and aspect of the experimental locations. This experiment will aid in management of this invasive species by educating land managers to focus on preventing current seed production of established individuals as those sources of seed were as important as those originating in the seedbank. Stimulating germination of seeds from the seedbank with a concomitant management strategy such as herbicide application or physical removal will likely be the most effective methods for dealing with seeds in the seedbank.

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