Restore, monitor, mitigate… Repeat? Adapting Habitat Restoration Projects for Climate Change

SERCAL 2017 Technical Session, Davis

Chairs: Christina Schaefer, Schaefer Ecological Solutions, and Glen Kinoshita, ICF

Lead presenters in alpha order

A Framework for Making Restoration Climate Smart
Thomas Gardali*, Brent R. Campos, Kristen E. Dybala, Alicia D. Herrera, John J. Parodi, Nathaniel E. Seavy, Isaiah Thalmayer, Leia Giambastiani, and Pete Warzybok
Point Blue Conservation Science, tgardali@pointblue.org
The science and practice of ecological restoration must address climate change. Despite increasing research on modifying restoration goals away from historic baselines and toward dynamic systems, restoration still lacks a clear framework for incorporating the impacts of climate change in restoration plans. To meet this need, we defined climate-smart ecological restoration and identified seven principles: (1) show your work, (2) look forward but do not ignore the past, (3) consider the broader ecological context, (4) build in ecological insurance, (5) build evolutionary resilience, (6) include the human community, and (7) monitor and experiment. We propose that with the current state of scientific knowledge and the guidance provided by our framework, ecological restoration can be modified by on-the-ground practitioners to prepare ecosystems for the consequences of climate change.

Using Structured Decision-making for Climate Adaptation Planning
Beth Huning
Coordinator, San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, 735 B Center Blvd, Fairfax 94930, 415.259.0334 office, 415.518.8568 cell, bhuning@sfbayjv.org
The San Francisco Bay Joint Venture is a partnership of NGOs, resource and regulatory agencies, landowners, and the business community working collaboratively to protect, restore, and enhance all types of wetlands in San Francisco Bay and along the California Coast. In 2011 the question arose as to whether the partnership should continue on the trajectory of tidal wetlands restoration for the endangered Ridgway’s Rail, given climate change and sea level projection. Using the SDM process, different objectives, trade-offs, and conservation options were analyzed and provided a well-vetted, robust set of conservation recommendations. It resulted in the larger question of balancing tidal marshes and Ridgway’s Rail strategies with those of other habitats and species, which led to a year-long process in 2014-15, the Climate Adaptation Decision Support (CADS) process. This presentation will use the CADS process to introduce effective decision-making and the Structured Decision Making (SDM) process to answer complicated conservation questions that will enable the decision-maker to be confident that the decision will lead to desired ecological outcomes. It will show how CADS addressed uncertainly, risk tolerance, and linked decisions about allocating resources to address climate change in multiple geographic regions and across multiple habitats and species, both short and long term. The presentation will focus on the challenges and successes of embarking on a complex decision analysis, the tools and models that were developed, and how they are now being utilized in resource management and climate change planning and habitat delivery in the region.

Examining the Influence of Aspect on Eriogonum Species in an Alpine Plant Community
Ryan Phaneuf
Saddleback College, rphaneuf2@saddleback.edu
At least five different species from the genus Eriogonum exist in the alpine Baldy Notch region of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. In addition, a large variation in topography exists throughout the area, with north- and south-facing slopes forming an integral part of the interaction between topography and the alpine plant community. Transects were surveyed on two sets of north- and south-facing slopes at Baldy Notch estimating densities of Eriogonum species, and densities compared between the two aspects. The density of plants within the genus Eriogonum varied considerably, with south-facing slopes displaying a greater density of Eriogonum than the opposite north-facing slopes. North-facing slopes surveyed contained very few plants from genus Eriogonum, while their south-facing neighbors contained over three hundred specimens respectively. The surprising diversity within genus Eriogonum was well-represented even in a small area, given to the harsh temperatures and rocky conditions of the alpine fellfields at Baldy Notch. While genus Eriogonum can adapt to diverse environmental conditions, the findings of this study suggest that species within this genus are still limited by factors as commonplace as the topography of their habitat. The limitation of suitable habitat for plants within this important genus may hold key insights for the planning and execution of habitat restoration projects in alpine environments, especially with the shifting temperatures likely to accompany climate change.

Adaptive Management of Pond Hydroperiod in the Face of Drought
Russell Prange
WRA, Inc., 2169-G E. Francisco Blvd., San Rafael 94901, prange@wra-ca.com, 415.524.7270
As drought conditions become more frequent in the face of climate change, breeding ponds for aquatic species are drying out sooner. Restoration specialists need tools to better understand pond hydrology in order to ensure these habitats support the necessary hydroperiods for the species of concern that utilize them. This study presents a model for analyzing pond hydrology by examining an existing California red-legged frog (CRLF) breeding pond and developing a daily water budget model. A CRLF pond at a private ranch near Vallejo was identified that did not have an appropriate hydroperiod through the drought to support CRLF breeding. A water level logger was installed to measure daily changes in water level over the course of a year. Using a laser level and GPS, pond bathymetric and surrounding topography were then measured. Next, a water budget model was created that measured daily pond depth based on the NRCS TR-55 method of measuring runoff. Using the level logger results, the model was calibrated to reflect real world conditions. The model was then further refined with 3D modeling created from topography data. Once complete, the model allowed designers to easily change pond depth, surface area, soil infiltration rate and watershed size to quickly understand the resulting effect on ponding duration and depth for any given year. With this tool, a deeper pond was designed and then modeled for the previous 20 years. Results showed that a deeper pond would more reliably provide the ponding duration needing for CRLF breeding habitat.

Climate Change: Policy challenges for restoration (nature based infrastructure solutions)
Stuart W. Siegel, PhD, PWS
Coastal Resilience Specialist, San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 3152 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon 94920, siegel@sfsu.edu
Gaps and obstacles of our current policy framework in the face of climate change pressures impedes planning, implementation, and achieving outcomes of ecosystem restoration (aka “Nature Based Infrastructure Solutions”). Our guiding laws — Endangered Species Acts, Clean Water Act, McAteer-Petris Act, CEQA, NEPA, and many more — responded to pressures of their day. Climate change exerts pressures that bridge across these vital yet often insular policy mandates. Our challenge, then, is to protect their underlying intents while evolving them to be responsive to climate change’s multi-faceted ramifications: •Allowing boldness in action plus time for results, where outcomes certainty is not high. •Allowing some impacts now from actions intended to give us “resiliency”. •Preserving landscapes that later will be essential to continued ecological functions and ecosystem services. •Choosing between investments in “holding the line” vs. “managed retreat” in shorelines, levees, flood management, and more. •Treating sediment as the critical commodity that it is. •Accommodating seemingly “novel” approaches. •Supporting durable analytics essential for informed decision-making in the face of political and economic pressures. •Permitting projects expeditiously and minimizing tangential requirements, to shave off years and costs of taking action. •Acting now when it’s less costly for the same results. •Rolling with new climate change projections. •Supporting landscape-scale adaptive management. And all the while, human society will be exerting a wide range of other pressures, natural disasters may well reorder our natural and human systems, species invasions will continue, and our knowledge and skills will continue to grow. Inaction will not preserve the status quo.

Challenges in Riparian Restoration and Adaptive Management Strategies
Saudamini Sindhar*1 and Logan Elms2
1Senior Botanist/Restoration Ecologist, Stantec, 290 Conejo Ridge Avenue, Thousand Oaks 91361-4971, 805.358.9023 cell, saudamini.sindhar@stantec.com; 2661.754.0385, Logan.elms@stantec.com
Restoration in most riparian ecosystems in Southern California is typically conducted in response to fulfillment of conditions specified in permits issued by regulatory agencies. Many individual small-scale restoration projects are being conducted in the Santa Clara River ecosystem, which is one of the last few wild and scenic river systems left in California. The focus of this discussion is to use examples of innovative restoration practices going on in the Santa Clara River; discuss benefits of the use of an ecosystem-level approach in restoration planning, given the changing hydrology of the river, from one year to another; and innovative ways to successfully combat ongoing vandalism on plants by ‘homeless living in the river’. We will conclude with applications of restoration strategies that have been successful in the Santa Clara river to other large river systems in Southern California.

Tidal Marsh Plain Restoration: Technological advances for planning and monitoring
Geoff Smick
WRA, Inc., 2169-G E. Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, 94901, smick@wra-ca.com, 415.306.4003
East Bay Regional Park District’s Breuner Marsh in Richmond is one of the Bay Area’s first tidal marsh restoration projects constructed to accommodate sea level rise. The main marsh plain is a high marsh designed to support a pickleweed-dominated community. The surrounding upland areas were constructed at an elevation where the tidal marsh can migrate inland and upwards in elevation with rising sea levels. The elevations of the restored marsh plain and surrounding transitional habitats that will convert to tidal marsh were developed using a combination of field studies and 3-dimensional GIS modeling. 3-D modeling provides a simple but powerful tool for planning and communicating project designs. The restored tidal marsh was designed to re-vegetate passively. By grading the marsh plain to the appropriate tidal elevations and returning tidal flows to these areas, the tidal marsh will receive plant propagules via the tides. While this is not an uncommon practice, the results of the first two years of post-construction monitoring indicate that some areas self-regenerate much more quickly than others. The restored tidal marsh is being monitored using drone aerial photos in combination with remote sensing software and GIS. Given the relatively large (20+ acres) area and difficult access, traditional mapping techniques are time consuming. In addition, we’ve found that these new techniques are actually more accurate and comparable from year to year than hand mapping the vegetation. The design process and preliminary results for this project may be applicable to other tidal marsh projects to increase efficiency and success.

The Sierra Nevada Forest Resilience Initiative
Wayne Spencer
Conservation Biology Institute, 815 Madison Ave., San Diego 92116, wdspencer@consbio.org
Conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada have been greatly altered by human influences, including logging, tree planting, fire suppression, and climate change. There is general scientific consensus that these altered conditions are not sustainable, as evinced by recent increases in the size of severe fires and unprecedented tree mortality due to drought and associated bark beetle outbreaks. However, it is unclear whether “restoring” historic conditions is possible, or even desirable, given our changing climate; and some imperiled species, like the Pacific fisher and spotted owl, strongly select for the densest available forest conditions—or those considered “least resilient.” Numerous scientists have been studying various aspects of these issues, but there has been little effort to integrate the results into a more comprehensive understanding of how topography, climate, vegetation composition and structure, and other factors interact to affect habitat resilience as well as habitat quality for forest wildlife. The Sierra Nevada Forest Resilience Initiative is bringing together diverse researchers, managers, and ecological modelers to develop scientifically sound metrics of resilience that can be mapped, projected into the future under alternative scenarios, and used to track progress towards resilience objectives. The ultimate goal is a comprehensive, integrated, and scientifically sound decision-support system to help forest managers prioritize actions to sustain forests that are both resilient to fires, drought, pests, and climate change, while also offering high quality habitat conditions for dense-forest wildlife.

Assessing Community Response to ‘Front-yard’ Coastal Dune Species Conservation & Restoration
B.B. Villanueva
Natural Resources Coordinator, City of Newport Beach, Office of Natural Resources. 100 Civic Center Dr. E Bay, Newport Beach 92660, 949.644.3037, bvillanueva@newportbeachca.gov
The City of Newport Beach has undertaken a conservation and restoration project in Newport Beach, CA, along the Balboa Peninsula within US Fish & Wildlife Service designated critical habitat of coastal dune areas. These areas lie within 20-30 meters of beachfront residential properties, are within line sight of ocean view, and are surrounded by open access symbolic fencing to prevent disturbances. The local community has varied responses to the conservation and restoration efforts. Communication strategies for the public focus on increasing knowledge base of conservation and restoration, explanation of city, state, and federal regulations, interpretation of charismatic species, and outlining benefits of natural coastal dune habitat as buffers against climate change and sea level rise. Community responses, both adverse and supportive, are taken into consideration and affect adaptive management decisions towards restoration. Volunteers for restoration and monitoring are drawn from supportive community members. Training on communication practices for field working staff and volunteers is required as confrontation by inquisitive or combative members of the public have become apparent. Increased involvement within public outreach and local community groups prove to be drivers in adapting the project to serve both the environment and its human audience.