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    • August 5, 2019

    History Hunters banner

    In addition to keeping track of current populations of rare and sensitive species, the CNDDB records historical species locations. Historical records provide important information on which species might occur in an area, and how species range and abundance may have changed through time. There is a wealth of information available in museum collections and field notes, but it can be a challenge to accurately map historical locations when place names, highway routes, and local landmarks have changed so much in the ~150 years of specimen records we have for California! This series will focus on some of the challenges we encounter and interesting history we uncover while mapping historical rare species data.

    Submerged, but not forgotten.
    Inundated, not extirpated.
    Some we feared drowned
    Hide and wait to be found.
         - Anonymous

    There are over 1300 reservoirs in the state of California, and nearly every major river has been dammed at least once. Many old collections reference towns, bridges, and roads that were abandoned or moved due to reservoir construction. The towns of Mormon Bar, Copper City, and Monticello appear on old topographic maps, but are now buried under the waters of Folsom Lake, Shasta Lake, and Lake Berryessa respectively. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where a specimen was collected if it references a landmark that’s now underwater! However, with the 2011-2017 drought the water level was so low in many reservoirs that some of these features link opens in new windowbecame visible again above the surface of the water. For example, the link opens in new windowBartlett Springs Bridge was abandoned in place when Indian Springs Reservoir was built in 1975, but it was rediscovered in 2015 by some intrepid bridge hunters who are now advocating for it to be preserved and restored.

    Map of Monticello before and after Lake Berryessa was formed.
    The town of Monticello (left) was flooded in 1957 when Lake Berryessa (right) was formed.

    Of course, the species represented in historical collections may not still exist at that site if it is now underneath a reservoir! However, this information is still useful to record in case there is still a possibility for that species to occur in the area. It may be that the species in question is able to disperse and reestablish itself in suitable habitat nearby, or that only a portion of the population was wiped out.

    In the case of the Bartlett Springs Bridge, foothill yellow-legged frog was collected there in 1964, 11 years before the reservoir was built. That site may be flooded now, but foothill yellow-legged frogs have been observed more recently in the vicinity of the Indian Valley Reservoir and on the North Fork Cache Creek, so it is possible that they still occur near the Bartlett Springs Bridge as well. The Indian Valley brodiaea is another species with known populations nearby and at least one historical population where the reservoir is now. Both of these species still have the potential to occur in the area, even though the original collection sites are underwater.

    In these cases, surveying suitable habitat in the surrounding area may turn up a population that hasn’t been seen in 50+ years! Even if we are reasonably confident that the population was extirpated, adding that information to the database provides decision makers with better information about the threats to the species as a whole, which they can use to prioritize future conservation efforts.

    Categories: Education and Awareness
    • July 31, 2019

    The hot summer days have not stopped people from going out into the field and exploring the great outdoors. Here are a couple of great Online Field Survey Form photos that were submitted to us in July:

    Pallid bat clinging to a tree

    Antrozous pallidus – pallid bat

    Submitted by Veronica Wunderlich

    Veronica found this pallid bat in a sticky situation – clinging to branches in a pond, unable to get out. She helped relocate it to a safe and dry spot. The pallid bat is an insectivore and typically catches insects found on the ground. CNDDB currently has 420 occurrences in 49 counties across California for this Species of Special Concern. Thank you, Veronica for this submission and the cool story behind the photo!

    Humboldt Bay owl's-clover closeup

    Castilleja ambigua var. humboldtiensis – Humboldt Bay owl’s-clover

    Submitted by Crystal Welch, Botany Technician with BLM office in Arcata, CA

    Crystal, a Humboldt State University grad, professes her good fortune in being able to explore the diverse botanical communities that Humboldt County has to offer, and attributes her love of the natural world to the experiences she has had in Humboldt. A word straight from Crystal, “I love every minute of being outside and contributing to the greater scientific community!”

    This amazing little annual was found in a salt marsh in Humboldt County. It is endemic to California and is commonly found in coastal salt marshes and swamps along the northern coast. Castilleja ambigua var. humboldtiensis more commonly goes by the name Humboldt Bay owl’s-clover. It is listed as a 1B.2 (rare throughout its range) in the California Rare Plant Ranking system and you can see these amazing little flowers from April through August, perfect for those summer hikes! Thank you, Crystal, for all the hard work you do and the love you hold for our beautiful world.

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our link opens in new windowOnline Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • July 29, 2019

    Collage of Orobance parishii ssp. brachyloba, Orobanche bulbosa, and Orobanche fasciculata
    Left: Orobanche parishii ssp. brachyloba (CRPR 4) by Katie Ferguson; Middle: Orobanche bulbosa, (common) by Kristi Lazar; Right: Orobanche fasciculata (common) by Katie Ferguson

    These fascinating parasitic plants are always a treat to find in the wild with their alien-looking flower stalks emerging straight from the ground and no leaves to be seen.

    The genus Orobanche is home to parasitic plants that lack chlorophyll, and therefore completely depend on their host plant for nutrition. Some species are only able to parasitize a single host species, while others can survive on a wide variety of hosts. If you spot one, be sure to note the other plant species growing nearby so you can identify potential hosts.

    Orobanche are often referred to by their common name “broomrape” which comes from the English word broom (referring to the shrubby plants in the pea family that broomrapes often parasitize) and the Latin word “rapum” (which roughly translates to “tuber”). Although recent phylogenetic studies now place all broomrapes found in California into the genus Aphyllon, for now CNDDB still uses the former genus name Orobanche.

    CNDDB currently tracks four species of Orobanche, including Orobanche parishii ssp. brachyloba (California Rare Plant Rank 4.2). O. parishii ssp. brachyloba is found in coastal bluff scrub and coastal dunes on the Channel Islands and southern coast of California, with its range slightly extending into Mexico. It is most commonly found near Isocoma menziesii, which is presumed to be the preferred host plant for this species. The few remaining mainland populations are highly threatened by coastal urban development; however it is found to be widespread on several of the Channel Islands. If you see O. parishii ssp. brachyloba or any other rare broomrapes in the wild, be sure to submit your observation with our link opens in new windowCNDDB Online Field Survey Form!

    Categories: Education and Awareness, Taxon of the week