Sunday, June 24, 2007

Restoration opportunities

These are some ideas for restoration of natural habitats in the parks included in this guide. These are not recommendations--these are rather ideas that should be evaluated by the powers-that-be (Long Beach Parks Dept, City Council, etc.). Or you. If you like these ideas (or hate them), contact the powers-that-be and let them know!

Colorado Lagoon
Regrading of slopes, creation of new salt marsh habitat
colorado lagoon
Slopes may be regraded to restore tidal flow to many areas that are now maintained as lawn.
Cost: High, although fill disposal would be minimal.
Chance of success: High--restoring tidal flow would ensure establishment of salt marsh plants.
Benefits: High.
Risks: Loss of areas of active recreation. New wetland areas may accumulate trash.

Restore native vegetation on bluffs
Remove nonnative iceplants and replace with a native bluff community.
Cost: Low
Chance of success: Moderate. Exotic plants may re-establish. Maintenance would be required.
Benefits: Moderate to high. No native habitat currently exists at Colorado Lagoon.
Risks: Maintenance is required to avoid re-establishment of non-native vegetation.

Golden Shores Preserve
Restore coastal sage-scrub vegetation to upland areas
Cost: Low
Chance of success: High. Current horticultural plants unlikely to re-establish.
Benefits: Moderate: No native upland habitat currently exists in the area.
Risks: Establishment of non-native species.

Increase public access to wetland areas
Fenced off restoration area
Remove fence, create new aesthetic fencing and/or boardwalk to improve access to the wetlands. Long Beach Parks identified this as a need in the Riverlink plan for the Los Angeles River.
Cost: Moderate
Chance of success: High.
Benefits: High. Increasing access to the marsh will improve awareness and appreciation of wetland habitats, decrease illegal dumping.
Risks: Increasing access may lead to trampling, littering (although major illegal dumping will be decreased).

Long Beach Greenebelt
Expand restoration area
Remove nonnative vegetation and replace with native coastal sage-scrub habitat between 4th and Ximeno streets. This area currently contains turf in very poor condition.
Cost: Moderate to low.
Chance of success: High.
Benefits: High. May reconnect sage-scrub with wetland habitats at Colorado Lagoon.
Risks: Loss of active recreation areas. Establishment of nonnative species must be prevented through continued maintenance.

Increase environmental education
Create interpretive signs, trail guides.
Cost: Low
Chance of success: High.
Benefits: High.
Risks: None.

Jack Dunster Reserve
Minimal opportunities for restoration. This park is pretty well built-out and maintained.

Marine Stadium Marine Reserve
Restore coastal sage-scrub vegetation to upland areas
Cost: Low
Chance of success: High
Benefits: Moderate to low. Currently no upland habitat exists at the site.
Risks: Low to none. Proper landscaping may be required to overcome objections to appearance of nonnative vegetation.

Regrading of slopes, creation of new salt marsh habitat
Slopes may be regraded to restore tidal flow to many areas that are now maintained as lawn.
Cost: High.
Chance of success: High--restoring tidal flow would ensure establishment of salt marsh plants.
Benefits: Moderate to high. Not too much area for expansion of intertidal areas.
Risks: Loss of areas of active recreation. New wetland areas may accumulate trash.

Bluff Park
Increase restoration area
Mono-culture vs restored
Remove nonnative iceplant and replace with native vegetation east of current restored area. Restore isolated patches west of current restored area. Stabilize slopes.
Cost: Moderate.
Chance of success: Moderate to high.
Benefits: Moderate
Risks: Expand feral cat population. Maintenance required to prevent re-establishment of nonnative vegetation.

Control feral cat population
Cat trap
Use trapping, outreach to reduce feral cat population.
Cost: Low.
Chance of success: Low.
Benefits: High. Feral cats are a major threat to native wildlife.
Risks: Most effective control measures (e.g., trapping and killing) unacceptable to many people. Maintenance required to avoid re-establishment of feral cat populations.

The Beach
Improve tidal flushing by removing breakwater.
Cost: Very high
Chance of success: Moderate to high.
Benefits: Increased flushing will remove trash and reduce levels of harmful bacteria at the beach. Some wildlife may increase as well.
Risks: Unclear how much improvement can be expected. Some breakwater must be maintained for safety of the port.

Shoreline Park
Nonnative landscaping
Expand restored area into areas currently maintained as lawn or landscaped vegetation (e.g,. eastward and around the edge of the peninsula).
Cost: Low.
Chance of success: Moderate to high.
Benefits. Moderate. Very little native habitat currently exists at the site.
Risks: Loss of recreation areas. Increased vagrancy due to "unkempt" appearance of landscape. Possible increase in feral cat populations. Natural dynamic dune ecosystem unlikely to be created at this site.

Sims Pond
Increase public access
Safe access may be increased by opening gates and creating a trail, boardwalk, or viewing platform. Create interpetive materials.
Cost: Moderate to low.
Chance of success: High.
Benefits: Moderate. Access will probably always be restricted due to proximity of homeowners.
Risks: Increased disturbance of neighbors and wildlife. Increased dumping in the pond.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Shoreline Park

CommunityWalk Map - Shorline Park
Red area outlines dune restoration area.

Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park may seem like an incongruous place for nature--it is, after all, built on artificial landfill. The open water and mudflats that used to be found here have been destroyed to create Rainbow Harbor. However, the park that now sits on top of this fill has a small restoration area that includes a habitat found in no other place in Long Beach--the sand dune. In addition, the park is a great place to observe rocky shoreline and open water habitats. And, of course, the park is home to The Aquarium of the Pacific, one of Southern California's premier destinations for anyone curious about the natural world.

Skyline over dunes
The skyscrapers of downtown Long Beach are easily visible from the restoration area.

Sand dunes were probably common along the beaches and island around Long Beach, but the creation of the Port and development along the beach has essentially erradicated them. The "dune" in Long Beach in no way resembles the real thing--you actually get a more reasonable facsimile at the eastern end of the Beach near the Peninsula, where the sands blow freely in the breezes. However, many plants of a mature dune community have been planted here to recreate the ecosystem.

Grassy dunes
Sandy area

Principle among these plants is the familiar shrub, coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis).

Coyote bush
Coyote bush is the most common shrub in the dunes of Shoreline Park.

Gall on coyote bush
This shrub has a gall, possibly caused by the Baccharis gall fly (Cecidomyiidae: Rhopalomyia californica). Although the gall kills the growing tip of the branch, the plant is generally not severely affected by this parasite.

California sagebrush is the other common shrub. Its leaves release a distinctive odor when crushed.

California sagebrush (Artemesia californica). Although the odorous oils in the plant are thought to make the plants distasteful to herbivores, it seems that these aphids are undeterred.

The shrubs have an understory of wildflowers, including the beach evening primrose (Camissonia cheiranthifolia), seacliff buckwheat (Erogonum parvifolium), and bush sunflower (Encelia californica).

Flowers under shrubs
Wildflowers grow under and between the shrubs.
Seacliff buckwheat
Unlike the more common buckwheat found further from shore, seacliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium) has heart-shaped leaves.

Beach evening primrose
Beach evening primrose
Beach evening primrose (Camissonia cheiranthifolia) can grow as a low, spreading plant or upright as a small shrub.)

A few of the more eye-catching nonnative weeds I saw in the park:

Melilotus indicus
Yellow sweetclover (Melilotus indica)
Melilotus alba
White sweetclover (Melilotus alba)
Scarlet pimpernel and yellow clover
Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)

The stone riprap that protects the park from erosion creates a second habitat to observe at Shoreline Park: the rocky shoreline.

Rocky shoreline

Sea birds are abundant and conspicuous here--many gulls, egrets, and cormorants patrol the shores looking for fish and invertebrates in the shallows or in the mud.

Snowy egrets (Egretta thula) are easily identified by their black bills and bright yellow feet.

It is easy to observe the abundant mussels (Mytillus californianus) and acorn barnacles (Balanus spp.) that attach to these rocks, as well as sea lettuce (Ulva spp.). Schools of fish (mostly perch) swarm in the shallows. Interpretive signs erected by the Aquarium optimistically tell you to keep an eye out for California sea-hares (Aplysia californica), but the water was far too turbid, oily and slicked with grime to discern these creatures.

The Aquarium has put up a lot of interpretive signs around the park. One of the most interesting was a 3-D painting of the Los Angeles Basin.

Seen from one side, you see the pre-development basin. But from the other angle, you see the modern-day landscape.

Acess to the park is easy by the Shoreline Bike Path, the LB Transit Passport, and Pine Avenue Link.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sims' Pond Biological Reserve

CommunityWalk Map - Sims' Pond

Sims' Pond Sign

This park is operated by the City of Long Beach, but it is entirely inaccessible. A chain-link fence blocks off all access from the streets, and the other boundaries of the park are abutted by private property. [See Bailey's explanation below.]

The Los Ceritos Wetland Stewards hosts occasional clean-ups of this park, so you can contact them ( about accessing the pond on those dates.

Sims Pond

Still, walking along the exterior of the park on Loynes or PCH provides an opportunity for bird watching and appreciating the pond itself.


The pond is almost entirely ringed with wetlands. Bulrushes (Scirpus acutus and Scirpus californicus) and cattails (Typha dominguensis and Typha latifolia) stand tall right at the water's edge. Tiny duckweed (Lemna sp.) float in the open water, covering the pond with an opaque green mat.

On higher ground, several species of willow grow. Their fluffy seeds catch sunset light beautifully.


These tall trees provide excellent roosting for birds, such as this black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax):

Nycticorax nycticorax

The pond provides food for the herons. I spied one heron struggling to eat a fish it had caught:


The LB Transit 171 and Passport-D bus take you this park.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Learn more

Calflora A website that contains photos of nearly every species and subspecies of plant found in California.

California Herps A guide to the reptiles and amphibians of California.


These books are great references to learn about the natural history of southern California:

Oscar F. Clarke, Danielle Svehla, Greg Ballmer, and Arlee Montalvo. 2007. Flora of the Santa Ana River and Environs, with References to World Botany. Berkeley, CA. Heydey Books.[pruchase from CNPS]

Peter R. Dallman. 1998. Plant life in the World's Mediterranean Climates. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. [purchase from CNPS]

Phyllis M. Faber. Common Wetland Plants of Coastal California. 1996. Pickleweed Press. Berkeley, CA. [purchase from CNPS]

Phyllis M. Faber and Robert Holland. 1996. Common Riparian Plants of California. Pickleweed Press. Berkeley, CA. [purchase from CNPS]

Joe Linton. 2005. Down by the Los Angeles River. Wilderness Press. Berkeley, CA.

Philip W. Rundell and Robert Gustafson. 2005. Introduction to the Plant Life of Southern California: Coast to Foothills. California Natural History Guides. University of California Press.

Things you can do to help

Visit these parks. If you ignore them, they will go away.

Report littering. Call the Long Beach Parks Department at (562) 570-3100. Yes, they DO want to hear from you!

Join a Coastal Cleanup. These occur at nearly all the parks described in this site. The beaches have cleanups at least once a month. At the very least, people who watch you pick up litter will think twice about their trash. The Parks Department runs a number of clean-up, tree-planting, and restoration activities throughout the year.

Garden wisely. Use native plants (or at least, native-friendly plants), which require very little fertilizer, pesticides or water. A list of plants for the Palos Verdes Peninsula has been developed by the California Native Plant Society--all these plants are suitable for Long Beach as well!
You can purchase native plants from these sources (at least, at certain times of year).

Be a responsible pet-owner. Snip snip snip. Scoop scoop scoop.

Join an environmental group. Here's a list of great organizations that are helping out in Long Beach.

Be a good citizen. Vote. Call/write/email your elected officials (senate representative governor state assembly state senate city council mayor) and the newspapers (LA Times Press-Telegram The Grunion/Downtown Gazettes The District), as well as local blogs LBReport Long Beach Politics.

Jack Dunster Marine Reserve

CommunityWalk Map - Jack Dunster Reserve

Dunster Marine Reserve

This park is a gem. A little hard to get to, but well worth the trip.

Heavy boat traffic
There are many short trails to wander about the park--though nothing you could rightfully call a hike. Benches provide many pleasant places to sit and gaze at the busy boat traffic in Alamitos Bay.

This area is a restoration site that was created as mitigation for wetlands lost on Santa Catalina Island. It's a bit non-traditional of a restoration, becaues much of the restored habitat contains species endemic to Catalina Island. Purists (like me) might argue that restoring a nonnative habitat (nonnative to the mainland US) doesn't really count as a restoration. But I won't argue that the park is beautiful and has great environmental and educational value.

Jack Dunster Marine Reserve wetlands

Unlike the Golden Shore Preserve, this restoration includes a good deal of upland habitat. The wetlands are small, but very easily viewed from shore or from the viewing docks.

Viewing dock
Viewing docks let you get closer to the water and watch marine life. Birds also like to perch on these docks as well!

From the dock and near the shore, you can examine the mudflats at low tide. The mudflats are full of burrows created by fiddler crabs:
Crab burrows

To see the crabs, you must stand still for a while--they scurry into their holes when you approach, and will only exit once they feel safe.

Fiddler crab

These crabs have an enlarged claw (usually the right) which they swing and wave to establish territories and attract mates.

Fiddler crabs wave their claws to signal to each other.

At slightly higher elevations, the mudflats turn into salt marshes. At the Dunster Preserve, the marshes were planted with California cordgrass (Spartina foliosa), salt grass (Distychlis spicata), pickelweed (Salicornia sp.), and alkali heath (Frankenia salina). The last two are susceptible to parasitism by an unusual plant known as dodder (in this case, salt-marsh dodder).

Salt marsh restoration--parasitized
A small restored salt marsh area, heavily parasitized by dodder Cuscuta salina)

Pickelweed (Salicornia sp.)

Alkali heath and dodder
Alkali heath (Frankenia salina), heavily parasitized by salt-marsh dodder (Cuscuta salina). Alkali heath is unusual for salt marsh plants in that it has showy flowers that attract insect pollinators.

Unidentified flower
This pretty little plant was also growing in the salt marsh area. It resembles crystalline ice plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum), but I'm not sure of the ID.

The upland area contains many of the same plants you might expect from the coastal sage-scrub areas that used to dominate Long Beach:

California encelia
California encelia, or bush sunflower (Encelia californica)

Quail bush(Atriplex lentiformis)

Lemonade berry
Lemonade berry Rhus integrifolia

Estuary sea-blite (Suaeda esteroa)

Coast prickly-pear
Coast prickly-pear (Opuntia littoralis)

Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea), with nymphs of a harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica).

Chalk dudleya (Dudleya sp.)

Golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertifolium)

Red sand-verbenaRed sand-verbena
Red sand-verbena (Abronia maritima). Note how the flower stalks are held erect, but the seed pods dangle straight down!

Wartleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus papillosus sp.)

But the preserve also showcases a number of unique plants endemic to Santa Catalina Island, located 25 miles to the southwest:
Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina--like the other California Channel Islands--is a botanical wonderland, filled with many unusual plant species found nowhere else on earth. (Animals too!) Many of these rare plants have been included in the Dunster Reserve as mitigation for habitat loss on the island. These unusual island plants are often similar to mainland forms, but gigantized in some way or another.

For example, compare the mainland coreopsis:

Corepsis (Coreopsis sp.)

with its island relative, the giant coreopsis:

Giant coreopsis
Giant coreopsis Coreopsis gigantea. Even though it looks like topiary, this specimen displays the natural growthform of this species.

Similarly, compare the common California buckwheat of the mainland:

California Buckwheat
California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

with its giant island relative:

Giant buckwheat (Eriogonum giganteum)

Other unusual island endemics are also represented in the park:

Lavatera assurgentifolia
Island mallow (Lavatera assurgentifolia)

Island snapdragon
Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa)

Partial list of plants:
Coastal dudleya (Dudleya caespitosa)
Chalk dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta)
Mulefat (Baccharis salicifolia)
Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis)
Golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertifolium
California encelia (Encelia californica)
Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea)
Coastal prickly pear (Opuntia littoralis)
Red sand-verbena (Abronia maritima)
Estuary sea-blite (Suaeda esteroa)
Salt-marsh dodder (Cuscuta salina)

This park is perhaps the least accessible by public transit. All bus stops are about 1/2 mile away or more. You can try the 181, 182, 171, or Passport-D.