Recovery efforts under way for high-risk species
Two endangered plant species are only found in the distinctive coastal dune ecosystem of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released its plans to grow and eventually delist La Graciosa thistle and Nipomo Mesa lupine.
“Recovery plans are based on the best available science on what species need to persist into the future,” Kristie Scarazzo, a botanist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ventura office said in a news release. “These plans outline strategic and systematic recovery actions aimed at reducing threats and promoting long-term viability.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized La Graciosa thistle as endangered in 2000. In 1990, the species claimed the “endangered” title through the California Endangered Species Act of 1984 and was named a threatened species under California’s Native Plant Protection Act of 1977.
It is in the Asteraceae family, making it kin to daisies and sunflowers. But looking at La Graciosa thistle, one may want to avoid its path rather than give a bouquet of its prickly leaves and pale, pom-pom-like blooms to a loved one.
The species, of which there are only eight surviving locations remaining, is dependent on wetlands but sensitive to flooding. Its main threat is groundwater decline, though invasive species and snacking herbivores can damage the plant’s potential.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said La Graciosa thistle has a “high potential for recovery” but will require community engagement — which has already begun.
The California and Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens bank the seeds in case staff want to propagate and plant them in the future. The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County has been growing seeds and planting them; it planted a successful batch in 2020.
Chevron’s Guadalupe Oil Field, now called the Guadalupe Restoration Project, has remediated invasive species and began propagating and planting thistle.
The plan predicts the total time to recovery to be 30 years, at a cost of $3.2 million.
Nipomo Mesa lupine is at a higher risk and was flagged for having low resiliency. It has a low potential for recovery, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service plan.
California listed the species as endangered in 1987, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added it to its list in 2000.
Nipomo Mesa lupine, a legume, doesn’t stretch far from the ground before bursting with hand-shaped leaves and purple and pink blossoms.
Its geographic range is only two square miles, located in Southwest San Luis Obispo County in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.
The Land Conservancy has coordinated grazing times away from lupine season and been careful with its invasive veldt grass that was introduced to the property in the ’50s.
Dr. Lisa Stratton, the director of ecosystem management at the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration at UCSB, has been leading a team of graduate students and researching the recovery of the species.
She noticed the seeds propagate best when roughed with sandpaper, as though the wind has blown sand across its rough coating.
The recovery plan says delisting is plausible in 20 years, with $6,895,000 of expenses.
The plans are required but not necessarily a commitment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nor its partners.