February 26, 2011
Despite forecasts for rain and snow, the skies were clear at Ash Meadows last Saturday. Five volunteers from Amargosa Valley and Las Vegas braved the high wind speeds to help cut cattails from Kings Pool outflow. After an orientation to the project by FWS biologist Darrick Weissenfluh, volunteers worked for 2.5 hours, removing cattails with hand clippers along approximately 40 meters of stream channel. The cut vegetation was then pushed downstream and loaded up onto the bank with pitch forks for removal.
While cattails are native to Ash Meadows, historically they were not as abundant as they are today. The reason for their invasive growth in Ash Meadows’ springs and streams is largely due to past habitat alterations – namely, the large-scale farming and ranching that occurred in the 1950s-1970s. During this period, many of the springs and streams were diverted into cement irrigation ditches which greatly affected the natural water flow and surrounding vegetation.
Kings Pool and outflow, located along the Point of Rocks boardwalk, was restored in 1997 and is home to two endemic species: the Ash Meadows pebblesnail and the endangered Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish. The pebblesnail is only 1 mm long and requires water warmer than 25oC to survive. The pupfish is the only native fish still occupying Kings Pool, is generally smaller than one inch long, and requires warm water (>25oC) to reproduce. Both of these species benefit from cattail removal – cattails are a haven for non-native predators, such as crayfish.
Thanks to the Public Lands Institute for providing snacks and water, and to all the volunteers who chose to help improve our public lands last weekend!