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BITTER CREEK NWR: Floristic Surveys to Document the Presence and Distribution of Refuge Plant Species
California-Nevada Offices , August 18, 2015
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Thousands of Kern Mallow (Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis) were documented southern and northwestern portions of the refuge by David Magney Environmental Consulting.
Thousands of Kern Mallow (Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis) were documented southern and northwestern portions of the refuge by David Magney Environmental Consulting. - Photo Credit: Jason Storlie, USFWS
Extensive fields of Great Valley phacelia (Phacelia ciliata var. ciliata) and bristly fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) could be found throughout the lower portions of the refuge.
Extensive fields of Great Valley phacelia (Phacelia ciliata var. ciliata) and bristly fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) could be found throughout the lower portions of the refuge. - Photo Credit: David Magney, DMEC

By Jason Storlie

Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), part of the Hopper Mountain NWR Complex, was established in 1985 to provide roosting and foraging habitat for the federally endangered California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) and to protect other endangered plant and vertebrate species. The 14,097 acre refuge is situated in the northern reaches of the Transverse Ranges, an ecologically diverse region where the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Mountains, western Mojave Desert, and San Joaquin Valley converge.

Located adjacent to other conservation lands, Bitter Creek NWR is part of an integral link in a chain of unique landscapes that support a wide assemblage of special status plant species. Potential habitat exists on the refuge for 3 federally listed species, including California jewelflower (Caulanthus californicus), Kern Mallow (Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis), and San Joaquin woolly-threads (Monolopia congdonii). However, the geographic extent and specificity of previous of surveys was determined to be lacking. Thus, to address the need for additional surveys, the Service worked with David Magney Environmental Consulting (DMEC) and the Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP) in 2015 to conduct focused floristic surveys.

The purpose of this work is to voucher and document the location and extent of existing populations of federally endangered plant populations and to document and voucher all other special status (CNPS and state listed) and non-special status species throughout the refuge. Information obtained from these efforts will help guide the development and evaluation of future conservation and management strategies.

It was a great year to conduct floristic surveys on the refuge. In contrast with recent years, winter rains resulted in impressive showings of native herbaceous species on the refuge. Dazzling displays of phacelia and amsinckia species were found throughout the lower portions of the refuge. Colorful fields of Lemmon’s poppies (Eschscholzia lemmonii) were observed on the eastern slopes of Bitter Creek Canyon, and common monolopia (Monolopia lanceolata) and Coulter’s jewelflower (Caulanthus coulteri), a relative of the federally endangered California jewelflower, on the western side of the canyon.

David Magney, of DMEC, and his crew also documented extensive populations of Peninsular Onion (Allim peninsulare var. peninsulare) and Howell’s onion (Allium howellii var. howellii), covering the northern slopes of the southcentral portion of the refuge, comprised of thousands of individuals.

“I had never seen so many in one location, so I decided to name the area onion hill,” Magney said.

Most importantly, populations of the federally endangered Kern mallow were documented, with thousands of individuals being observed in the northeastern and southern portions of the refuge. Six other special status species were documented on the refuge, including California androsace (Androsace elongata ssp. acuta), Mojave Indian paintbrush (Castilleja plagiotoma), stinkbells (Fritillaria agrestis), Cuyama gilia (Gilia latiflora ssp. cuyamensis), adobe yampah (Perideridia pringlei), and the first ever recorded occurrence of pinion blazing star (Mentzelia eremophila) on the refuge.

Five weeks of surveys were conducted during the spring and summer months of 2015, with a total 2,039 individual sites being surveyed. The first year of floristic surveys resulted in the documentation of 270 vascular plant taxa, including 24 species not previously reported on the refuge. Seven hundred and thirty eight species, including duplicates of some species, were also vouchered and will be deposited into the herbarium at the University of California, Santa Barbara. With floristic surveys scheduled to continue for an additional two years, there is ample opportunity to document additional species on the refuge.

 

Jason Storlie is the complex wildlife biologist for the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex.


Contact Info: Ken Convery, 805-644-5185, ken_convery@fws.gov
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