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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
VENTURA FWO: Partners Remove Invasive Plants from Monterey Bay DUne Habitats
Region 8, July 6, 2007
Martin Dunes. (USFWS Photo)
Martin Dunes. (USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Ice plant in flower at Martin Dunes (USFWS Photo)
Ice plant in flower at Martin Dunes (USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Mary Root, Ventura FWO and Heather Brady, Big Sur Land Trust

The Monterey Bay Dunes Complex covers 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of California’s central coast and is the largest coastal dune system in the State.  The dune habitats of Monterey Bay support many endemic and rare species, including the federally endangered Smith’s blue butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi), Monterey gilia (Gilia tenuflora ssp. arenari), and Menzies’ wallflower (Erysimum menziesii subsp. menziesii), and the threatened western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) and Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. pungens).  Within the Monterey Bay Dune Complex, the 125-acre (51-hectare) Martin Dunes property, owned by the Big Sur Land Trust and numerous private landowners, provides habitat for federally-listed species in the region and one State species of special concern, the California legless lizard (Anniela pulchra).  


Working with the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Private Stewardship Grant Program are funding invasive plant removal on approximately 80 acres (32 hectares) of the 125-acre (51-hectare) Martin Dunes property.  The Big Sur Land Trust will contribute 29 percent of the total project costs in the form of in-kind and cash contributions, and the Service’s program will fund the remaining project costs.  The Martin Dunes property shares its northern boundary with the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge, which has been actively removing invasive plants from dunes habitats on the adjacent Service lands.  The Refuge will also help to support the project by providing access to the project site and has already provided helpful insights on effective approaches to removing invasive plants in dune habitats.  The Martin Dunes project will specifically target two highly invasive plants in the dune ecosystem, iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) and European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria).


Iceplant reproduces vegetatively and sexually, and forms dense mats of vegetation that consume the open patches of sand between perennial native dune plants.  These open sandy habitats are essential to the Monterey spineflower, Monterey gilia, Menzies’ wallflower, and western snowy plover.  The project’s other target species, European beachgrass, can drastically alter the physical structure of the beach profile and reshape once-flat sandy areas to densely vegetated mounds reaching heights of 20 feet (6 meters).

Because of the invasive nature and habitat-altering qualities of the iceplant and European beachgrass, both species are considered major threats to native coastal dune species at the Martin Dunes and within the Monterey Bay Dunes Complex.  Iceplant and European beachgrass currently cover approximately 65 percent of the coastal dune habitat at Martin Dunes.  The primary goal of the project is to eradicate iceplant and European beachgrass on the Martin Dunes within the next 5-10 years in order to restore suitable habitat for native species on the property.

The project will compliment and extend the benefits of numerous invasive plant removal and coastal dune restoration efforts occurring throughout the Monterey Bay Dunes

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov