Archives
January 17, 2019
link to facebook link to twitter
More Stories
RP Downtown project underway ArtStart brings art to the RP Senior Center CalFresh clients get Feb. benefits early New laws on purchasing and concealing handguns Rohnert Park Council says we don’t need another agency RP has a new director of public safety Learn to docent at the SSU Fairfield Osborn Preserve USCIS presents free training on how to apply for citizenship Cotati Police Chief Parish swears in new officer Garber More than 276,000 Dreamers have renewed DACA 2018 local stories which made history Caltrans works toward decarbonizing California transportation Help save lives by donating blood El Camino graduates A stand-off with barricaded, suicidal woman ends safely in RP AG Becerra issues consumer alert on price gouging in fire-affected communities PG&E has a prediction model Baseball League receives donation from local motorcycle club Cougars beat Bulldogs Fresh faces on the CRPUSD board Newsom’s vision “cradle to career” CPI receives funding to offer counseling in schools Bad air quality cancels sports Official election winners as projected by the VOICE  RP swears in new council member Fun family Christmas events in Cotati Cougars’ season comes to a tearful sad conclusion Rohnert Park road updates Dr. Dominguez and Hawkins named as director and co-director for Hanna Institute University Elementary School to host Maker World at SSU Animal Shelter League of RP receives grant Cotati Council reshuffles seats The Community Voice endorses candidates DA’s office awarded DUI Prosecution Grant Rohnert Park kid joins TCU Operators ordered to pay for false advertising violations Frightful, fun, free Halloween activities Cougars crush Ukiah Election projected winners November 6, 2018  Sonoma Clean Power offers no-cost energy upgrades Rancho advances to semifinals RP’s n­ew Director of Public Safety Public invited to give input on Downtown RP Site School board candidates voice opinions Woman stabbed on west side of RP LandPaths connects people to protected land Tech High Girl's Soccer Undefeated champions! NHTSA reminds motorists to drive sober this season State Farm property steams forward to Station Avenue Scrappers Steal Win RP Foundation issues grant Cotati allows second dispensary New residential building lands approved In Singapore Strait aboard a missile destroyer Rancho Cotate Band fundraiser BBQ Jessica Holman: Thirty-five years of Rancho Spirit Titans crush Mustangs Station Avenue gets final approval Cotati Council reviews trash plan FEMA awards Sonoma Water grant New interim superintendent Krispy Kreme Doughnuts comes to Rohnert Park  Cougars blow past Gauchos  Rohnert Park honors its Veterans and Servicemen CHP reminds all of increased crimes Cotati Chamber of Commerce Oktoberfest Rancho crushes Analy CA Homemaker Association needs volunteers Active duty honorees at the RP Veterans Day program Santa now knows her secret RP’s new interim police chief Big changes to big project in Rohnert Park A possibility for Snyder Lane to have four lanes soon New laws take effect Jan. 1 Penngrove Community Church celebrates 120 years Cotati approves tree lighting City of Cotati has apartment housing parking problems Students at University Elementary discussing the labyrinth Rohnert Park City Council Candidates R P Foundation gives grants to NOAH and Petaluma Bounty Summit State Bank annual report March for the blind highlights need for more accessible sidewalks Cougar to Bear — Simmons’ new pelt SRJC picks up local quarterback The Cougars defeat the Jaguars at homecoming Kids and firefighters compete in RP RP local, Petri Alva, 14, a nationally recognized athlete SweetPea celebrates 31 years Seawolves serve up a victory Cardinals rout Cougars How to help victims of wildfires Polynesia celebrated at annual Pacific Islander Festival Fire storm anniversary Plan approved for Station Ave. park Football in full swing, 3rd win Arrests and charges target Apple stores Annie Rasmussen Celebration of Life Revisiting those who lost it all: October wildfire victims still on the road to recovery SMART celebrates a year of service RP Public Safety report card Penngrove native set for amazing voyage Cotati votes opposition to oil leases SC neighborhood sues illegal pot grower Penngrove grassfire destroys buildings Cotati Accordion Festival still a hit after 28 years RP residents provide input in police chief search Forum hosted by WLV for RP City Council candidates Supply giveaways lend a hand to families Police officers inspect inside of car Lowerys help with campaign Yes on Measure W will keep fire stations open RP to host community forum for public safety director search Emergency Alert System Test Sept. 10 & 12 Spreckels and Alchemia connects community It wasn’t an easy fight but Rancho wins again RP Safety Dept. climbs in remembrance of 9/11/18 Back to school for Rohnert Park and Cotati Another tough break for roller derby RP waits to make update to emergency alert system Cougars slay Dragons Third pedestrian struck by SMART train Enjoying ribs Little ones with big Polynesian dancing spirit Sidewalk repair gets big break from City of RP RP Health Center celebrates anniversary Imitating major leaguers Rohnert Park waiting for approval for canine program

The forest at your feet

By: Wade Belew
June 2, 2011

As Stewardship Coordinator for the Cotati Creek Critters, I became interested in native grasses several years ago when we wanted to add understory plants to complement our creek restoration plantings of trees and shrubs.

I turned to the California Native Grasslands Association to learn more and attended a conference and several workshops. I found that native grasses were important, but surprisingly uncommon, despite the fact we’re surrounded by grasslands.

Why should we care about native grasses or grasslands? Despite their small stature, grasses are ecological powerhouses in plant communities throughout the State.

Grasses are the biological threads that weave the canvas on which is painted the biodiversity of California. Grasses are very productive, providing forage and seed for a wide array of wildlife. This precious energy is passed through the food web, such as, when a rabbit is eaten by a golden eagle or coyote.

Only two percent of native grasslands remain after about two centuries of impacts from invasive weeds, agricultural conversion, development, mismanaged grazing and fire suppression. Let’s examine these impacts and effects on native grasses, and how that, in turn, affects us.

Invasive weeds have been introduced since Spanish cargo ships dropped off livestock and ballast, which consisted of soil that inadvertently carried seeds from far away places. Grasses and other plants were intentionally planted for forage or other uses.
Most grasses native to California adapted to our Mediterranean climate as deep-rooted perennials, meaning, they live year after year.

Some can live for five to10 years, or even for 100 years or more. Most of the invasive grasses are annual, completing their entire life cycle in one year or less.

The fibrous roots of native perennial grasses can grow as deep as 10 or 15 feet and provide many benefits over the shallow-rooted annual weeds. Probing roots break into subsoil and routinely die off, leaving organic matter deep in the soil profile. This process sequesters atmospheric carbon and helps convert subsoil into topsoil. It also opens up channels for rainwater to infiltrate instead of run off the surface.

Annual grasses grow fast and tall, outcompeting the slower-growing native perennials for sun and soil resources. At the end of the rainy season, the annual non-native grasses die and further smother native plants with a thick thatch layer.

It is analogous to the tortoise and the hare. The native perennials are the tortoise, slowly chugging along, but in it for the long haul. Annuals are like the hare, a quick burst of energy, but nothing sustained over the long term.

Converting grasslands to agricultural crops is common because grasslands typically have highly developed, fertile soil. All of the grains such as corn, wheat, rye and barley are grasses, so it makes sense they would thrive in grassland soils.

Development, whether residential, commercial, industrial or public works projects permanently extirpate grasslands and other native plant communities.

California was historically grazed by large herds of elk, pronghorn and deer foraging vast grasslands. Besides naturally-occurring fires started by lightning, there’s evidence to suggest Native Americans regularly burned grasslands, which also improved forage for their game animals.

Grazing and fire are now recognized as an important disturbance regime benefitting grasslands by discouraging brush, eliminating thatch and cycling nutrients. Livestock grazing occurs on 40 percent of the state and is an important economic resource.

In an effort to be economically competitive, commercial pasture can be overgrazed, resulting in soil erosion, compaction and loss of fertility. Eliminating grazing is problematic too, as invasive annual weeds often dominate in these situations.

If you would like to learn more about this subject, please join me for a workshop entitled “Introduction to California Grasslands and Grass Identification” on June 11 at 9 a.m. at Pepperwood Preserve northeast of Santa Rosa. You can learn more about this event and other workshops offered by the California Native Grasslands Association at www.cnga.org.

Wade Belew is president of the California Native Grasslands Association and stewardship coordinator of Cotati Creek Critters.