Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rainbow Lagoon

CommunityWalk Map - Rainbow Lagoon

I debated whether or not to include Rainbow Lagoon as a natural area. No doubt, the interpretive signs around the lagoon tells you that it is a haven for wildlife. There is half a truth to what they say. But that means that there is also a big fat half-lie too.

There is very little natural habitat here. The upland areas are mostly covered with lawns and non-native palm trees. It's a very urban park here, and there isn't to support wildlife here.

In the last century, most of this area was open ocean. The semi-circular Rainbow Pier was created in the 1920s, along with the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. Soon after, the City began filling in the open water behind the pier. With the decline of Long Beach's downtown in the 1970s and 1980s, the City undertook aggressive revitalization plans, which included massive filling of the area behind the pier, to create the modern-day landscape.

Thus, Rainbow Lagoon is the vestige of the sheltered cove that was once protected by Rainbow Pier.

Oceanic salt water fills Rainbow Lagoon via underground pipes and culverts. This keeps a marine, but wave-free environmnent. In some ways, this is similar to natural lagoons (such as Malibu Lagoon) where waves are cut off by natural sand bars, which come and go with the seasons. In a natural state, this still water would be conducive the establishment of salt marsh plants, like Spartina foliosa. However, there are none to be found here.

In contrast to a natural lagoon, Rainbow Lagoon is paved with concrete and in general has a very hard "edge" which prevents the establishment of plants. As you can see in the picture above, there is no gradual shift from deep to shallow water; these gradients normally create a variety of depths, which are essential to a diverse fish community with species of different sizes. The far edge in the photograph is rocky, which adds a little diversity. But the hard substrate again does not allow plants to establish. No doubt the plant-free environment is an intentional component of the park management, as such plants could create nuissances in such an urban environment.

The blunted tidal inputs creates other problems for the lagoon: lack of oxygen. Wave energy and fresh inputs of ocean water would normally keep the oxygen levels high. Making matters worse, the concrete lining makes the water heat up in the sun, further depleting oxygen. To prevent oxygen levels from getting too low (which would result in massive fish-kills), water is agitated and circulated by fountains. These fountains also improve the aesthetics of the park.

The dense urban surroundings contribute a lot of pollution to the park, but vigilant maintenance keeps out most litter. Still, a lot of the junk that winds up in the lagoon contributes nutrients, like nitrate. These nutrients promote algae growth, which can be unsightly, odorous, and further deplete oxygen (remember: algae and other plants only produce oxygen when they are photosynthesizing--at night they consume oxygen, just like most living things).

The park is much more welcoming for human inhabitants than wildlife. There is a beautiful winding path that take you over colorful bridges, and paddle boats to take you over the water. It is a lovely park, just not wondeful for wildlife, notwithstanding this semi-informative interpretive sign:

More than a pond

And, in the end, the park is far better than a sterile lawn in terms of wildlife. I came across a green heron (Butorides viriscens) catching a small fish in the lagoon! These guys aren't exactly rare, but nor are they that commonly seen.

Get ready for Coastal Cleanup Day 2007

Trash on our beautiful beach

Sunday, September 15, 2007 is California's Coastal Cleanup Day.

Why not devote half an hour to making Long Beach a more beautiful place? All you have to do is show up, and pick up trash you find along the beach.

Something is going on at nearly every stretch of the beach in Long Beach. In addition, there are inland sites along the Los Angeles River, and at the ponds in El Dorado Park. Remember: Trash anywhere on the strees in Long Beach will eventually wind up on the coast! So you can clean up the coast anywhere in the City. I'll post details about exact locations once they are known.

Coastal Cleanup Day is organized by the California Coastal Comission.

I participated in this event in 2006 at Alamitos Beach. So what did I think of it?

-Yes, it's kind of futile to think that one day of cleaning will have much of an impact. In fact, the beach didn't look any cleaner immediately after we finished.
-Some people don't quite get it. Some jerk dumped piles of moldy bread on the beach, and none of the volunteers thought it was littering until I pointed out to them that food on the beach attracts lots of rats.
-It's a great experience in self-education. There is FAR more litter on our beach than you might ever expect. And yes, it is all harmful to wildlife.
-It's a great public eductaion. If a man or woman sees hundreds of people cleaning up the beach, they may realize that the beach is something to value. Usually, people are ashamed to think someone else is cleaning up after them, and they will be more responsible with their own trash.
-They ask you to tally up all the pieces of trash you pick up. I think it's a waste of time and stupid. But for some people, it makes the task fun. I "guestimated" my numbers at the end. How many cigarette butts did you pick up? Eight billion?

By the way, they usually have awesome signs for the event. Last year's featured these cool wildlife cards:

The Cig-Egrett

The Spork Crab

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Long Beach Water Department giving away grants for water-wise landscaping

The Long Beach Water Department is giving away grants up to $5000 to encourage home owners to replace water-hogging lawns with water-wise landscaping.

The announcement can be downloaded here.

The deadline is September 28, 2007.

The desired projects will require little water and maintenance, have minimal runoff, and provide wildlife habitat.

Although they do not require that projects use native plants (for shame! they do not even mention native plants!), a native garden would meet every single one of their goals (especially wildlife habitat).

Monday, August 20, 2007

News: Fire at El Dorado Nature Center

The Press Telegram reports that firefighters put out a small fire near the Nature Center on the evening of August 19. [article]

Hot embers from an unknown source ignited the compost bin, although arson hasn't been ruled out.

However, damage to property appears to have been minimal, and none of the animals in the building were harmed.

Although brush fires were a historically common event in southern California, and most plants and animals are very well adapted to it, the small size of El Dorado park means that wildlife are very vulernable to fires here. A large enough blaze could wipe out an entire population

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I haven't done much on this blog in a long time. I have already covered most of the parks in Long Beach that contain significant natural areas (although there are quite a few, especially on the LA River, I have yet to visit!). I will continue to cover them, but in the future, this blog will expand to cover a variety of environmental issues affecting Long Beach and surrounding communities, especially those affecting Parks and natural habitats.

I hope you enjoy!