Coastal Terrace Prairie Restoration at Richmond Field Station

“The Old Growth at Our Feet”: Coastal Terrace Prairie Restoration at Richmond Field Station

Project Leads: Sarick Matzen, Celine Pallud, and Karl Hans

Project Sponsor: Environmental Science, Policy & Management (ESPM)

TGIF Grant: $16,000

Project Theme: Habitat Restoration & Native Landscaping

Application Submission

Project Description: UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station (RFS) contains the last intact, undisturbed native coastal terrace prairie adjacent to the San Francisco Bay shoreline. This prairie contains native bunchgrasses, “the old growth at our feet,” which are possibly thousands of years old. These seventeen acres of ancient, biodiverse prairie contain a rich community of native grasses and forbs (wildflowers), including a rare stand of slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus). UC Berkeley recognizes the value of the prairie, with portions protected for teaching and research.

This rare and ecologically critical prairie faces multiple threats, including habitat damage due to soil pollution and incursion of invasive plants. Soil at the Richmond Field Station is contaminated with arsenic due to dumping of chemical waste from a neighboring former chemical plant. Non-native invasive plants, especially Harding grass (Phalaris aquatica), outcompete native prairie plants, preventing native grasses from re-establishing in disturbed, moderately contaminated soils, and threatening the undisturbed remnant coastal prairie.

Phase I of this project, funded with TGIF 2018 Fall Mini-grant funding, used plant based remediation methods to remove arsenic from the soil. Phase II, funded with TFIG 2018 Spring Grant funding, will fully restore coastal terrace prairie habitat.

Project Goals: 

  1. Project goals are to collect seeds, propagate and plant native prairie species, and weed out invasive plants to restore 6 acres of coastal terrace prairie.
  2. Broader aims are to increase biodiversity, sequester carbon, and store water in UC Berkeley soils, preserve this ecological treasure, and help UC Berkeley meet carbon neutrality goals.
  3. Finally, the project will promote leadership of women, people of color, and LGBTQ communities in the environmental sciences. Students in the Sustainable Soils Research Incubator, a special field course supporting students from underrepresented groups in obtaining environmental restoration experience, will conduct the project.