08 Aug Give Plants a Chance
Hello, July! Can you believe that?! I guess it is true that time flies when you’re having fun.
Summer has officially arrived here in the North Cascades. It took it’s sweet time to arrive, but the snow on the mountains is FINALLY melting off. That being said, we should be getting more field days to focus on watering the current restoration sites the native habitat restoration team has been working on! Yes, I said that; we still visit sites that are already planted because successful restoration projects take YEARS to complete. Let’s talk about that!
What IS restoration?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, restoration is defined as “the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.” Obviously, this is just the broad definition, since we can use the word to describe anything we are wanting to restore. In terms of habitat restoration, there are eight objectives to consider when creating a restoration project, and those are listed out in the International Principles and Standard for the Practice of Ecological Restoration. Those eight principles are:
- Engage Stakeholders
- Draw on many types of knowledge
- Be informed by native reference ecosystems while considering environmental change
- Support ecosystem recovery processes
- Assessed against clear goal and objectives, using measurable indicators
- Seek the highest level of ecosystem recovery possible
- Gain cumulative value when applied at large scales
- Part of a continuum of restorative activities
(Gann et al. 2019)
Why do we restore?
I mentioned a brief reasoning on why we restore native habitat in my last blog, but I want to reiterate it here. Restoration, when completed effectively and sustainably, contributes to protecting biodiversity, improving human health and wellbeing, increasing food and water security, delivering goods, services, and economic prosperity, and supporting climate change mitigation, resilience, and adaptation. (Gann et al. 2019). In many cases within the National Park Service, the main driving factor on why we restore is for the “improving human health and wellbeing” aspect, since the park is here for people to get out in nature. But as stated before, the other benefits still take effect when native plants are planted into areas that have become bare. I mean, would you rather see the photo on the left or the photo on the right when hiking through the North Cascades? Obviously, you can see which one I chose!
Photo of lookout at Slate Peak
Photo of lookout at Copper Ridge
Restoration efforts here at the North Cascades National Park
Here at the NOCA, we usually only restore sites that have been impacted by humans. We typically would not restore the landscape after natural disasters, such as fires or landslides. We would let the natural processes take over in those cases!
There are serval active restoration projects happening here at the park! I am going to touch on three specific projects, each in different stages of the restoration efforts!
In the order as shown below, the three project sites are:
- Reflector Bar, located in Diablo, WA
- Marblemount Waterline, located off of Cow Heaven Trail
- Colonial Creek, located off Hwy 20 near Colonial Creek Campground
This one has been in the works for some time now (I’ve been told for almost a decade!). The project, also known as the Diablo Housing Deconstruction Habitat Restoration Plan, is a partnership between Seattle City Light and The North Cascades National Park. The end objective is to restore the old town of Diablo into a stand of Douglas-Fir. Housing and the Waste Water Treatment plant will be completely demolished. To date, the team has over 11,000 pots ready for planting. Demolition of the buildings begun early summer of 2022. NOCA will not be planting the seedlings, but they did collect seed and sowed all the plants locally. This site is just over 3 acres! It will be cool to track this project this summer, and hopefully by October the plants have been added so I can get another updated photo.
Spring of 2022, a new waterline was placed for the Marblemount complex. The whole area had no water until a day before I arrived to start this internship! The waterlines needed replacing, so the ground was dug up. The disturbance happened along Cow Heaven Trail since that is where the water tanks are. This project is still in the works. The National Park Service contracted this work out, and in the contract there was written discussion about salvaging and replanting as many ferns in the disturbance zones. We are still in the works to get other native plant species back out in that area! When looking at the photos though, I am sure you can tell that even adding just the ferns back, it helped this site visually a lot. The approximate area of this site is ± 1/2 an acre.
In 2016, Seattle City Light (SCL) replaced outdated transformers which required changes to the bank of Diablo Lake in order to transport the transformers across the lake. The landscape was changed to accommodate trucks loading the transformers onto a barge, thus changing this area into a large gravel lot. In 2018, after SCL was finished, the team added top soil and mulch to the disturbed area before planting a total of 1,462 plants. There were 15 different native species that were planted over the course of 2 years. Rope and signage have been added to this site to discourage visitors to trample on these native plants since this is a heavily used area in this park. Last year, the nearby creek flooded this area and left rocky sediment behind, but I feel the plants have been putting up a good fight! This project area is ±2810 ft².
But it isn't over yet!
The project is not over once the plants are in the ground!
After the plants are planted, they are monitored for at least a couple of years to be as successful as possible. During this monitoring process, we will water the newly planted seedlings, and watch for signs of animal browsing and any human disturbances. Not only do we help preserve the new species planted, we will want to remove any unwanted species. This brings us to weed control, a highly needed but not highly thought of step in almost all restoration projects! The goal is to get as many of the native plants established so they can outcompete the non-native and weedier species! If that occurs, then I’d say we’ve won half the battle!
To the right is a video of me watering one of the many restoration sites – this one is at a site call Newhalem Range.
Now I know that was a educationally dense blog post, but I feel it is important to understand why I am doing what I am doing this summer!
In August I will be headed to Washington D.C. to share all this new knowledge I’ve gained thus far. With this particular internship, Environment for the Americas arranges us (interns) to go and present what we had the opportunity to do, and why it plays a significant role in our national parks. All I know is there seems to be a lot of manual labor to get these big picture restoration projects completed, but it is always worth it!
Gann GD, McDonald T, Walder B, Aronson J, Nelson CR, Jonson J, Hallett JG, Eisenberg C, Guariguata MR, Liu J, Hua F, Echeverria C, Gonzales, EK, Shaw N, Decleer K, Dixon KW. 2019. International principles and standards for the practice of ecological restoration. Second edition. Restoration Ecology S1-S46