Torrance’s Madrona Marsh, on brink of ‘collapse’ from drought, lands grant for restoration

Torrance’s fragile Madrona Marsh ecosystem is on the brink of “total collapse” without restoration after five years of drought, state officials said, prompting the award of a $470,000 grant to save the rare habitat that contains “irreplaceable natural resources.” The California Coastal Conservancy unanimously approved the grant at its meeting Thursday.
“After five or six years of drought, you have quite a long time between opportunities for species in vernal pool habitats to thrive,” said Sam Jenniches, manager of the project for the conservancy.
“And during that time you also have time for invasive species to move in,” he added.
“Without precipitation and with the presence of invasive species, the functional vernal pool habitat is pretty much at dire risk.” The state is believed to have lost 90 percent of its vernal pools, which dry up in the summer and are replenished in wet winters, the conservancy said in a staff report supporting the grant proposal.
The 45-acre preserve provides habitat for more than 100 species of rare animals and plants.
“Over the last five years, with the exception of this year, (the vernal pools) have not filled properly,” Drake said.
“It’s at a point where if we didn’t have rain this year I would have considered finding a way to move the rain we didn’t get from wetlands into the vernal pools.” The project, which will begin late this summer or early this fall, involves restoring and enhancing up to 4 acres of vernal pool habitat.
That will be accomplished by hand grading the flood plain surrounding three vernal pools to restore natural grading.
That will once again allow direct runoff that was disturbed by the oil field that formerly occupied the site for more than 80 years.
Volunteers from the Friends of Madrona Marsh — the nonprofit group that largely runs the preserve and was awarded the grant — create a native plant “barrier” to block weed seeds from entering the restoration area.

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