Palos Verdes Conservancy receives grant to weed out invaders

Volunteers meet up each Saturday to help “grow and kill” invasive plants..

by Louise Olfarnes


The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy recently received a $55,000 Biodiversity Conservation Grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). The money will go toward the conservancy’s  multiyear restoration project to restore 13 acres at Abalone Cove Reserve.  This project’s goal is to provide  habitat for rare wildlife, increase the numbers of rare plant species and decrease erosion and sediment movement along the bluffs. And it will engage the community in the stewardship of this precious coastal area.

The Abalone Cove Restoration Project  began two years ago.  The Coastal Conservancy and Natural Resources Conservation Service has provided over $360,000 in funding.  California Water Service and Southern California Edison have provided additional gifts. The Conservancy still seeks to raise the final $100,000 from the community to complete funding for the project

The Abalone Cove Reserve is one of the rarest and most diverse ecosystems in Southern California. Its coastal sage scrub habitat is only 85 percent of its former range, and is considered one of the most endangered plant communities in the United States. Restoring the 13 acres of habitat at Abalone Cove Reserve is important in ensuring that its rare and endangered species may thrive. 

Abalone Cove Reserve features beautiful bluff top viewing and trails leading to beaches and protected tide pools. It is part of the Rancho Palos Verdes Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) and is a protected area of special interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is adjacent to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, which was upgraded with plant-lined pathways and educational signage by the City of Rancho of Palos Verdes in 2014. 

The Abalone Cove Restoration Project will restore coastal sage scrub, cactus scrub and host plants that support four special status species: the threatened California gnatcatcher, species of special concern cactus wren. It will also help protect two federally endangered butterflies: the El Segundo blue butterfly and Palos Verdes blue butterfly. Restoration of this ecosystem will eradicate nonnative acacia species, black mustard, ice plant and various other invasive weeds present on the site which limits the biodiversity potential of the area.

Natasha Khanna-Dang helps with habitat restoration at the Abalone Cove Reserve. Photos courtesy of Louise Olfarnes

It is exciting to have secured the resources needed for this monumental, first restoration project,” said Conservancy Executive Director Adrienne Mohan.  This project will fulfill the critical need to support wildlife species that face extinction due to environmental and human pressures, and will also enhance the land’s ability to withstand stresses, such as coastal erosion and prolonged drought conditions.”

Early on in the project, goats were deployed to feast on the proliferation of non-native weeds, while the Conservancy deployed its field crews along with specialized arborists to remove the razor-sharp, invasive cat claw acacia and other shrubs. After clearing nonnative plants, the crew installed temporary irrigation lines. The lines serve two purposes. The first is to assist with the “grow and kill” method of flushing out invasive plants by watering and germinating and then removing them before they can set their seeds. The second is to water the native plants grown from local seed in the Conservancy’s nursery.

The current, two-year phase began in February 2021 and will go through October 2022.During this period, volunteers and crew will continue with weed eradication to prepare for planting. Native plants for the project are grown from local seeds in the Conservancy’s Native Plant Nursery in San Pedro to maintain genetic integrity and diversity. In the fall, volunteers and crew will plant the last four acres of coastal sage scrub and cactus scrub plants

Plants installed will mimic the natural distribution and vegetation mosaic of adjacent healthy habitats.  Rare Californian plants will include Catalina rockflower, Crossosoma californicum, and island green dudleya (Dudleya virens ssp. Insularis).  Sea-cliff buckwheat host plants will be planted for El Segundo blue butterflies to help increase its burgeoning population on the coastal bluffs. Deerweed and rattlepod are also host plants for the Palos Verdes blue butterfly and are intended to reintroduce historic blue butterfly routes in Rancho Palos Verdes. 

“Another important aspect of the project,” Volunteer Coordinator, Megan Wolff said, “is to engage the community through public volunteer day opportunities held on Saturdays throughout the year. In addition to a comprehensive educational introduction, the Conservancy educates volunteers on appropriate planting and maintenance techniques to care for the coastal sage scrub habitat.”

Volunteer partners include students from South Bay high schools and service organizations such as International Environmental Stewards, Los Hermanos, Audubon YES club, Science National Honors Society National Charity League and scouts.  Persons interested in helping should visit, April 3


Outdoor Volunteer Day, Saturday, April 3

Abalone Cove Reserve. 9 a.m. to noon. Sign up at PEN


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