Edited, published and text and photos are Copyright © 2005, 2008 by Craig Dremann of The Reveg Edge (sm). P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, Cal. 94064. Phone (650) 325-7333 email
The URL of this issue is: http://www.ecoseeds.com/juicy.gossip.seventeen.html or http://www.ecoseeds.com/mustards.html - No. 17- April 2005 - April 2006
Index of all the Juicy Gossips at http://www.ecoseeds.com/juicy.html
Ooopps...there Goes Another North American Ecosystem, or Will the Mojave Desert and the Sonoran Desert, along with the native vegetation of four National Parks, disappear within our lifetime?
Table of Contents---
MEETING BARSTOW CALIFORNIA Aug. 30, 2005
---The Three Desert Mustards -- Sisymbrium.
-------Mature Dried Plant Management
-------Sahara Mustard Mathematics
---Indian Hedge Mustard.
---California Desert & SW Desert Roadside Infestations Surveyed.
-------Arizona Highway 95 -- see 360 degree pictures!
------GLOBE ARIZONA takes a bite out of Sahara mustard fires with fire
------YUMA BLM district map of the Sahara mustard along the roadsides
------Lake Mead National Recreation Area
---"GOT MUSTARD?" We want Sahara mustard seed samples!
---Conclusions and Suggestions
---Cost estimates for FY 2005 Calif. Desert Manager Budgets.
Death Valley Wildflowers, March 2005. How the Californian Mojave desert should look in a good rainfall-year. Wild sunflowers at the southern end of Death Valley.
Three Desert Exotic Invasive Mustards:
"Exotic, Invasive Mustard No. 1" Sisymbrium << Click for details.
The "Exotic Invasive Mustard No. 2 "-- the Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii), or should be renamed the "Evil, Devil Desert Destroyer from Hell"! - The original stand in the Mojave was at the Junction of Cal. 177 and Cal. 62, only a few acres, just a short eight years ago, shown below:
Sahara Mustard, at its original Mojave site, junction of Cal. Hwy 62 & Cal. Hwy 177.
SAHARA MUSTARD is now spreading all over the California deserts and throughout the Southwest.
The Sahara Mustard shown moving from the Interstate 15 road edge to cover the desert like a blanket, smothering the creosote bush desert. Between Baker and Barstow, this newly introduced mustard in the last eight years, infests both the median and the ditch road edges of I-15. Shown above, it has moved as a solid stand into the desert in just in only a few years. It is estimated that along I-15 this new exotic invasive plant is infesting at least 10 square miles outside of the Interstate right-of-way.
Sahara Mustard in Grand Canyon National Park, near Lees Ferry. Photo Lori J. Makarick "Below the Rim Vegetation Program Manager", Grand Canyon National Park Science Center, who writes: "March 12, 2005 - 18 volunteers worked with park biologists from Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to remove Brassica tournefortii from the Lees Ferry Area. These volunteers pulled and bagged 17,903 individual plants in 7 hours - with about 10 times that many plants remaining on the site. In 2004, volunteers removed just over 9,000 plants from the Lees Ferry area and biologists were hoping to see a decrease in this species' abundance in 2005. But, alas, the winter precipitation spurred tremendous growth, leading to one of the greatest expansions of one plant species that we have seen in this area."
Sahara Mustard at the Grand Canyon's RIM!: Left, Marble Canyon. Right, bridge at Page, Ariz.
SAHARA MUSTARD ABLE TO GROW IN EXTREMELY POOR SOILS AND SAND DUNES: The most troubling aspect of this new exotic, is its ability to grow where no other desert exotic could survive previously, like sterile decomposed granite and sand dunes. Photograph is a roadside ditch of decomposed granite in the Sheephole Mountains.
For example, the soil nutrient levels (N-P-K or Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) of the decomposed granite shown in the photo is nearly non-existent, where the Sahara mustard is thriving very nicely.
SAHARA MUSTARD'S VERY LOW SOIL NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS. When comparing this mustard to another common Mojave desert weed like the Filaree: The very low soil nutrient level where the Sahara Mustard is shown growing in the photo, is only 65% of the minimum nitrogen level, 70% of the minimum phosphorus level, and 46% of the minimum potassium level necessary for Filaree's survival!
"THE GREAT WALL OF MUSTARD" -- US 95 San Bernardino County, between I-40 and the Nevada border, the most interesting stand of Sahara mustard in the California desert---"The Great Wall of Mustard" really takes your breath away. See more photos on the survey page link below for SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, US 95.
Photo May 19, 2005
Source of Original infestation:
1.) Original Source of California desert infestation may have been a Caltrans roadside infestations in the Coachella Valley, and the original Mojave infestation only got started eight years ago at the junction of Cal. 177 and Cal. 62 in Riverside County.
2.) Current centers and major sources of infestations are:
a.) the sand dune areas in the Coachella Valley, and the sand dunes along Cal. 62
b.) the BLM ORV areas like Jawbone Canyon in Kern County along Cal. 14, and Stoddard Valley along Cal. 247, and any other dune habitat in the California desert where ORV use occurs. The ORV are the major source of new infestations getting started in the desert.
c.) Anza Borrego State Park and vicinity.
d.) All Caltrans maintained roadsides, where the shoulders are graded. The mustard likes to grow in the pushed up disturbed soil at the edge of the grader's blade.
e.) Has now spread eastward along the desert Interstates to infest southern Utah, Lake Mead in Nevada and throughout western and southern Arizona from Parker and Yuma to Tucson, and is also in Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon National Park.
Infestation currently spread via:
1.) Caltrans roadside grading of shoulder spreading seeds and plants along road edge
2.) ORV areas that are infested, the ORVs carry the seed pods caught on their vehicles to cause new infestation elsewhere.
3.) According to Lake Mead once the plants get established along roadsides, then animals may be caching the seeds into the desert. Also when plants die in the summer, they dry, break off and move like tumbleweeds into the desert, and when they bounce along the ground seed pods are shattered and seeds are released.
4.) The plant when it is it's tumbleweed phase, normally was blown by the wind down dry washes as"Sahara mustard highways", where the plants eventually got caught in rocks or bushes lining the washes, and new plants would spring up there. Now the roads that we've built or carved through the desert are acting like the dry washes, creating arteries for the mustards to move quickly down.
5.) Plants initially colonize areas of bare soils: Graded
roadsides, edges of unpaved vehicle tracks, abandoned fields,
and overgrazed lands like the bare interspaces underneath or between
shrubs in deserts---anywhere there has been catastrophic removal
of the indigenous local native ecosystem, and where the plant
does not encounter any competition.
The plant could be considered a "default space-filler", colonizing and filling by default the bare areas in an arid lands ecosystem created by human activities. The plant also colonizes naturally-occurring bare areas, like the edges of dry washes and sand dunes.
Sahara Mustard Seeds and Seedlings
While working out the germination requirements on Sahara mustard, I stumbled on two dormancies in fresh seed, that I haven't seen reported in the literature before:
1.) Cold-moist stratification requirement until August.
Fresh seed of the Sahara mustard has an interesting cold-moist
stratification requirement until August 1-7th of the same year
that the seed was produced. After the first week in August, the
seeds will germinate at will at room temp. without any cold-moist
The June-August 1st. dormancy is to protect the seeds from sprouting, due to summer showers, so the seed is only sensitive during that period to adequate moisture plus cold of between 33 deg. F. and 40 deg. F., for about 24 hours.
If the temp. is freezing or below, however, the seeds stay dormant.
Gel on moist seed coat,
attaching itself to pencil.
Dry seed is 1.1 mm or 0.045" in diameter. Magnification 50X. Microphotograph by Craig Dremann.
2.) Minimum Adequate Moisture requirement for a minimum amount of time, to keep the gel seed-coat saturated, in order to start germination.
Along with the dormancy in the seed before August, there's also a moisture-level dormancy related to the gel-material of the seedcoat.
The Sahara mustard seedcoat, when wet, forms a gel, similar
to chia seed, sweet basil seed, or garden cress seed. However,
if the moisture surrounding the Sahara mustard seed isn't at a
high enough level for a sufficient amount of time to permanently
activate the seedcoat
gel---then the gel shrinks back into place, and the seed waits for a period of adequate moisture.
Furthermore, when the seed is in its early stages of germination, the gel becomes a potential moisture-reservoir that the roots can draw from in case of a dry period.
Viewing this seedcoat gel's activity and strategies under a microscope is very interesting.
SEEDLING DENSITIES. The narrow stem and small size of the seed-leaves, allows for a very high seedling-density.
When seedlings are one inch tall, they can pack in an average of 25 seedlings per square inch, and a maximum of about 56 seedlings per square inch, which translates to 175 million to 322 million seedlings per acre.
Of course, as the seedlings grow, they weed themselves out to space themselves at a minimum of about 8 inches apart, or a maximum of about 19,000 plants per acre.
Sahara mustard seedling, the
still-attached seed coat and gel at the roots, acting as a potential
moisture-reservoir. Microphotograph by Craig
MATURE DRIED PLANT MANAGEMENT:
If you were no able to pull or spray the plants while they were green in spring, you still have a chance to manage the plant through the summer by gathering the dried seedstalks with still have intact seedpods attached.
If you view the dried stalks under a microscope, you'll see that they have a 4/1000th of an inch thick "skin" that is about a 10-ply layers of cells that encloses air-filled cells in the center core look like bubble-packing. That means that the typical plant that might take up 3 cubic feet as a dried plant, can easily be crushed under foot into a cardboard box, into pieces 1-4 inches long, that only take up about 1/3 of a cubic foot.
Using mechanical means, like a power
chipper, could easily condense the plant material into an even
Since the strain that is spreading across the North American deserts seems to be a cultivar, in that the seedpods do not readily dehise, I have seen seedpods remain intact into mid-September, which then allows for many months to be able to harvest a lot of the seed before it spreads into the environment.
Fire is another option to manage the dried Sahara mustard stalks, by adding kerosene to the dried seedstalks, and have a managed burn, like Globe, Arizona.
RESULTS of mapping the California desert roadsides in 2005, total 1,447.7 miles.
UNINFESTED: The good news in May 2005, is that 853.4 miles of these routes are still uninfested by the Sahara mustard.
ROADSIDES ONLY: Another 340 miles of roads have the road edges with Sahara mustard, with about 400 acres infested, where the weed is still within 10 feet of the road edge, and not into the desert yet.
INTO THE DESERT: There's an additional 254.3 miles of road, where the mustard originally grew along the roads---and unfortunately in the last eight years has moved into the desert, where it now infests an estimated 32,000 acres.
It seems that once Sahara mustard moves off the roadside into the desert, within eight years or less, it can cover about 100 acres for every mile of roadside that it originally grew along.
Fortunately, the total acres in the California desert in 2005 only represent 1/10th of 1% of the whole desert, and about 96% of the whole infestation is still within one mile of the paved road that it originated from.
YOU CAN SEE THE TOTALS for all the roadsides surveyed, here.
Since all of the California Mojave infestation can be traced back to a single acre at the Junction of California Route 177 and California Route 62 in 1998---and that the Mojave population now covers about 50 square miles---means that it has increased 32,000 times its original size, in less than eight years.
MATHEMATICAL CONSTANTS for the MUSTARD'S SPREAD:
The "Infestation Spread-Factor"
Assuming that the first acre of Sahara mustard got started in the Mojave portion of the California desert in 1998, then the mathematical constant for the spread, or "Infestation-spread Factor" is 4.4015 times increase each year:
Year 1 - 1998 - One acre
Year 2 - 1999 - 4.4015 acres
Year 3 - 2000 - 19 acres
Year 4 - 2001 - 85 acres
Year 5 - 2002 - 375 acres
Year 6 - 2003 - 1,652 acres
Year 7 - 2004 - 7,271 acres
Year 8 - 2005 - 32,000 acres
You can see how a the Sahara mustard population could appear
to "explode" during a wet year, when all along it was
increasing at a steady, mathematically constant rate.
The "Plant Eradication Equilibrium
Point" or "Tipping Point" (PEEP or TP)
There's a rule-of thumb regarding the eradication and control of fast-spreading exotic plants: "You need to eradicate the exotic plant infestations at least four times faster than they are spreading," at http://www.ecoseeds.com/talk.html
That means, based on the California's 2005 mustard infestation of 32,000 acres, you must first calculate what percentage of the total infestation you must eradicate each year, in order to at least maintain the infestation at the same size, and not allow it to increase.
That's the "Plant Eradication Equilibrium Point" or "PEEP", or the tipping-point for the infestation. By knowing the "Infestation-Spread Factor", then the PEEP can then be calculated. Because the Sahara mustard is such a fast-moving infestation, then the PEEP is very high, at 77.3%.
What a PEEP of 77.3% means, is that you must eradicate at least 77.3% of the entire infestation each year, just to maintain the status quo, and not increase the total acres. The math is as follows: 32,000 acres eradicated 77.3% leaves 7,264 acres, which multiplied by the 4.4015 X "Infestation-Spread Factor", increases in area the second year back to 32,000 acres.
The Sahara mustard will probably require an eradication
level, closer to 95% of the infestation each year, to manage this
fast-spreading weed four times faster than it is spreading.
A 95% eradication of the Mojave's 32,000 acres within one year, leaving only 1,600 acres-- even that small acreage, multiplied by the 4.4015 X annual increase, means that the next year you'll have a total of 7,042 acres to contend with. Then the second year you eradicate 95% of the 7,042 acres, leaving 352 acres, but by the third year that would increase back to 1,550 acres, and so on.
Year 1 - 95% eradication of 32,000 acres yields 1,600 acres
Year 2 - 1,600 acres increase to 7,042, with 95% eradication on those acres yields 352 acres
Year 3 - 352 acres increase to 1,550 acres, with 95% eradication yields 77 acres
Year 4 - 77 acres increase to 340 acres, with 95% eradication yields 17 acres
Year 5 - 17 acres increase to 75 acres, with 95% eradication yields 4 acres
Year 6 - 4 acres increase to 18 acres, with 95% eradication yields 1 acre, etc.
A requirement of 95% annual eradication factor, means that it's like putting out a fire, and you have to be constantly on top of the seedbank so that no "embers" restart the "fire". Every plant left behind will mathematically start about 4.4 plants the next year.
Let's start getting the necessary annual funding together, so at least the eradication can proceed at 77% of the total infestations annually, so that the Sahara mustard doesn't spread any further! The speed at which this plant is spreading, could make it the ecosystem-breaker of the century!
Above: CHART "Potential Growth of Brassica [tournefortii] per acre with Different Scenarios" is a diagram of the Plant Eradication Equilibrium Point or Tipping Point, calculated for the Sahara mustard infestation at Lake Mead, by Dr. Elizabeth Powell, reprinted with permission.
Dr. Powell explains the chart:
The chart is based on an assumed population of 11,000 per acre and assumes an increase of 5.5 calculated by 550 seeds per plant and 1% of seeds able to grow and survive to set seed again. The reductions are based on a study of the relative seed set of a number of different sized plants in one year in one place.
The conclusion is- go for the big plants- they produce the most seed and you get more of the future seeds out of population by focusing on getting the largest plants- when you can't get them all.
The problem is- you need to get 80% of them to start a decline in numbers- you can't do just 50%- the problem with getting 80% - we found was that they are hard to see- and we ALWAYS miss some when clearing an area- I have calculated that we miss about 15-20% even when we are trying to be thorough. So- you really have to try to get them all if you want to do anything.
The model was a very simple mathematic model. I made several assumptions based on what was observed in the field. There was a large patch of Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) on Boulder Beach in Lake Mead NRA and the patch had a number of plants of various sizes and was reasonably thick.
We measured off 1/2 hectare and took randomly placed belt transects thru the patch and measured the number, sizes (basal rosette and height) and density of the plants in the transects. I used that to calculate number of plants per hectare. I also used that to calculate the size distribution within the patch.
Plants were sampled in the area of various sizes and a sample of seed pods was taken from each of those plants and the number of seeds counted in the pods. We also counted the total number of pods on plants of various sizes. I made a regression showing the relationship between size (diameter of basal rosette and height are related- so I used diameter of basal rosette) and number of seeds produced.
I calculated the "average" plant and the number of seeds produced by that "average" plant. That was about 550 seeds. I made an assumption that 1% of those seeds would result in seed bearing plants in the next generation.
This means that the rate of increase would be- on average - 5.5- which is huge. This somewhat corresponded with what we were seeing in the field- which was plants that had seeded in isolation the previous year would have 5-10 new plants around them the next year- so I felt reasonably safe with the 1% assumption.
Obviously, depending on the year, this could be a large overestimate or an underestimate. I was trying to look at an average. Ultimately populations have years of fast growth and years of slow growth or no growth or even negative growth, but it is the long term average that matters. The rate of increase then was calculated as a simple mathetical model- each year the number of plants increases by 5 times.
I started the model with the number of plants we calculated per hectare, because it was the first year we had seen Sahara mustard on that beach. This rate of increase is huge and, of course, the number of plants predicted on site went exponential immediately.
I did not consider any other factors (such as dispersal and predation by rodents- which is a huge factor with this plant) - just raw assumption that the same conditions on this site would prevail year after year- which of course, they don't. For example- after I did this model - we pulled up all the plants on the site- and the following year- there were just a few plants left on the site and the following year (last year) - after we had pulled those up- even fewer.
Then I modelled how many seeds would be produced by plants in various size classes. I combined sizes of plants and number of plants in plot of those sizes, and calculated the average number of seeds produced for plants under 10 cm in rosette diameter and over 10 cm in rosette diameter and for plants over 30 cm in rosette diameter.
The year I did this - I did not have many of the giant plants (rosette diameter of 1 meter or more) that we saw last year. Then I reduced the number of seeds potentially entering the next year's seed pool by various scenarios. I did that in order to see what our strategy for control should be- since we are very labor limited and the season during which this plant can actually be controlled is very short.
The conclusion was that you should always go for the biggest plants first, don't waste time going after little plants- go after the big ones. We used this strategy this last year- and I am not sure it made any difference whatsoever- almost every plant was huge and the number of plants was overwhelming. We were reduced to trying to focus on a few rare plant habitats and let the rest go to seed, unfortunately. We saw densities in certain areas that were much larger than what we had measured in our plot. We calculated a density of 6 million plants per hectare in another plot.
Furthermore, the shoreline (drawdown zone) of Lake Mead has become lined with this plant and from these shorelines, the plant have spread enormously- both inland and across the lake to new beaches. Seeds are capable of remaining viable for up to 11 weeks underwater.
Plants can float around in Lake Mead for weeks before washing up on some distant shore. From there, the plants, the big ones of which are like tumble weeds, can be moved by wind or by rodents into open desert. This kind of spread is practically impossible to contain.
ERADICATION SPEED AND COSTS IN THE CALIFORNIAN DESERTS
Assuming that both Dr. Powell's and my calculations are correct---that you have to annually eradicate 80-95% of the total infestation, in order to get ahead of the spread of the Sahara mustard on the Southwest deserts---what would that mean for the California deserts for future?
Assuming that there's 32,000 infested acres in the California's desert? Then, starting September first of each year, and then every day until the end of the year, about 250 acres must be eradicated EACH DAY.
Budgeting so that one acre per day would take two people doing it by hand, and then paying $25 per hour (California's "mow-and-blow" gardening wages), then 250 acres a day would take a labor-force of 500 people working at $200/day, would cost about $100,000 per day.
Multiplying out to cover the total costs for California's
infestation from September to December, would be about $12 million.
But that cost does not include Ecological Restoration, to restore
the desert ecosystem's health, so that it will be resistant to
future Sahara mustard and other exotic plant invasions.
EXOTIC INVASIVE MUSTARD No. 3, Indian Hedge Mustard << click on link for more information.
Did the tipping point occur in the spring
of 2005, to cause the eventual collapse
of the desert ecosystem that covers many million of acres in Southern
California, Southern Arizona, Southern New Mexico, Western Texas
and Northern Mexico?
California Desert and Southwest Desert
Roadside Infestations Surveyed---
Which roadsides are infested in 2005 with the three exotic, invasive mustards? Links below to routes that have been surveyed.
GREEN ZONE means from a 70 mph windshield survey, plants were not apparent along either the medians, roadsides, or outside of the roadsides.
BLUE ZONE means that plants were seen along the roadside or in the median, but plants did not seem to be spreading outside of the roadway.
RED ZONE means plants were seen spreading outside of the roadway, into the adjacent lands.
Total approximate highway miles in each County noted, and miles of each route: (Active links to mapped routes and more photos, unlinked roads not surveyed)
San Benito and Santa Clara County - in Northern California!
US 101 - (5 miles)
San Luis Obispo County - in Central California!
US 101- (one mile)
Fresno & Kings County - in the San Joaquin Valley!
I-5, Fresno & Kings County - (37 miles)
Imperial County - (Total = 408 miles):
I-8, W-E, County line to State Line - (92 miles)
Cal. 78, W-E, County line to Palo Verde - (100 miles)
Cal. 86, N-S, County line to Mex. border - (66 miles)
Cal. 98, W-E, Runs parallel with Mex. border - (55 miles)
Cal 111, N-S, County line to Mex. border - (70 miles)
County S34, N-S, Cal. 78 to I-8 - (25 miles)
County S80, W-E, Ocotillo to Seeley
Riverside County - (Total = 386 miles):
I-10, W-E, Yucaipa to Arizona border - (156 miles)
Coachella Valley (Endangered Species Refuge & see original 1920s Mecca population)
US 95, N-S, parallels Colo. River - (34 miles)
Cal. 62, N-S, County line to I-10 - (8 miles)
Cal. 78, N-S, I-10 to county line - (10 miles)
Cal. 86, N-S, I-10 to county line - (16 miles)
Cal 86S, N-S, I-10 to county line - (18 miles)
Cal. 111, N-S, Cal. 111 Mecca to County line - (26 miles)
Cal. 177, N-S, I-10 to Cal. 62 - (28 miles)
All paved Roads through Joshua Tree NP - (83 miles)
County Road S-22, from Salton Sea to Anza Borrego State Park - (7 miles)
San Bernardino County - (Total = 833
I-15, N-S, Apple Valley to Barstow (23 miles)
I-15, N-S, Barstow to Nev. border - (113 miles)
I-40, W-E, Barstow to Ariz. border - (150 miles)
US 95, N-S, Nev. border to I-40 - (22 miles)
US 395, N-S, Red Mountain to I-15 - (66 miles)
Cal. 58, W-E, County line to Barstow - (35 miles)
Cal. 62, W-E, Morongo Valley to Jct. 177 - (33 miles)
Cal. 127, N-S, County line to Baker - (44 miles)
Cal. 178, N-S, Trona to Ridgecrest - (22 miles)
Cal. 247, N-S, Barstow to Yucca Valley, Jct. Cal. 62 - (77 miles)
Old US 66, W-E, Ludlow to Jct. 40 - (77 miles)
Cima-Kelso Road, N-S, I-15 south via Kelso - (50 miles)
Amboy Road N-S, I-40 to Amboy and ends 29 Palms - (65 miles)
Baker-Kelso Road, N-S, ends at Kelso - (38 miles)
Kern County - (Total = 198 miles)
US 395, N-S, County line to county line - (34 miles)
Cal. 14, N-S, US 395 to Rosemont - (66 miles)
Cal. 58 town Tehachapi to county line - (50 miles)
Cal. 178 W-E, Lake Isabella to county line - (48 miles)
Los Angeles County - (Total = 82 miles)
Cal. 14, N-S, Lancaster and Palmdale - (22 miles)
Cal. 138, W-E, I-5 to county line - (60 miles)
Inyo County - (Total = 363 miles) - No roads surveyed.
US 395 N-S, Bishop to county line - (116 miles)
Cal. 190, W-E, Jct. US 395 to Jct. 127 - (115 miles)
Cal. 178, N-S, Jct. 190 to Nev. border - (88 miles)
Cal. 127, N-S, Nev. border to county line - (44 miles)
San Diego County - (Total = 130 miles)
County Road S-22 through Anza-Borrego - (35 miles)
Cal. 78, W-E, I-15 to county line - (60 miles)
I-8, W-E, Alpine to county line - (35 miles)
GLOBE ARIZONA uses fire on Sahara mustard dried stalks.
TUCSON ARIZONA Mountain Park getting infested in 2005 with the Sahara mustard.
BLM district map of the Sahara mustard along the roadsides
NEW MEXICO -
1.) ROADSIDES and MEDIANS. Since the roadsides and medians of the State and Federal highways are where these three exotic mustards initially spread along, like an infections running through arteries, that's where the major effort needs to be concentrated, to stop the infections from spreading any further.
That means the State Department of Transportations for California Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas, plus the Federal Highways administration have the lion-share of the responsibility for containing these mustards, to abate a public nuisance that is spreading within their properties.
a.) MAPPING, MAPPING, MAPPING. "What
is measured, is managed" is a business concept. Every
paved route in the deserts must be annually mapped and updated
for these exotic mustards, at least for the Sahara mustard. Even
a simple, 70 mph windshield survey can show important trends that
the Federal land management agencies and Federal Highway Administration
in Washington DC, need to know about, so they can increase their
The detail of mapping shown on the Survey pages linked to this web page costs about $8-10 per mile, which is mapping post-mile by post-mile, checking both roadsides and the median, plus checking if the mustards have escaped out into the desert. Since there's about 2,500 miles of paved roads in California's desert, which means that at least $25,000 needs to be budgeted just for annual mapping in California alone.
b.) ROADSIDE MANAGEMENT & RESTORATION. A program will need to be developed, to do at least three things regarding the roadside mustard infestations: ERADICATION, MANAGEMENT, and CONVERSION back to local native desert ecosystems. Regarding the Sahara Mustard in particular, just spraying will not do the job of management, because it loves it where we create bare soils with grading or spraying along roadsides, where it has no competition from other plants.
ANY ROADSIDE PROGRAM will need to be able to eradicate, manage and convert a certain number of miles of roadsides and medians annually.
c.) REPLANTING LOCAL NATIVE PLANTS SOLIDLY AFTER NEW CONSTRUCTION. In order for these new exotics to not be able to colonize new construction, the Federal Highways Administration needs to include a budget in any desert route construction, for replanting the local native ecosystems solidly along the roadsides and within the medians. And construction that has recently been completed, like Cal. Highway 58 from the town of Mojave to near Kramer Junction, any roadsides and medians left bare after construction must be replanted within a year or two.
2.) ANNUAL BUDGETS for DESERTS, SAND DUNES and AGRICULTURE LAND INFESTATIONS. The two exotic mustards thrive best, either in the richest agricultural soils, like the London Rocket; or in the poorest soils and sand dune, like the Sahara mustard. That makes agricultural areas and the poorest roadside soils and sand dunes, the reservoir areas for future new infections to spring out of. Serious annual budgets need to manage the desert and agricultural-land infestations, to eliminate the seed sources.
3.) INVENTING NEW TECHNOLOGIES. These two exotics are so fast-moving, that new technologies and processes will need to be invented. However, those areas also constitute the largest contiguous areas so far infested, sometime solid square miles so far. That means that some new processes and new technologies will need to be invented, that have performance standards supporting them.
a.) ESTABLISH a Federal Highways Administration
"X-Prize" for the mustards. Just like the first
private spaceship got airborne last year, based on an economic
incentive of a million dollar prize, there needs to be prizes
offered for whomever invent successful technologies to manage
each of these new species.
Also, whatever technologies or processes are invented, they will need to be able to manage the infestations at least TWICE AS FAST as they are spreading. The FHWA, for example, could budget $20 million annually in their SBIR program (Small Business Innovative Research) to fund successful solutions.
b.) ENDANGERED SPECIES HABITATS in the deserts. Managing or eradicating an exotic plant that is in the middle of Endangered Species habitat is the most difficult thing to accomplish, while trying to kill as few of the Endangered Species you're trying to protect. This portion of the exotic mustards management process will be the most costly---like eradicating the Sahara Mustard infestation in the Coachella Valley at the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge, home to the Endangered Fringed Toed Lizard and several other rare species.
4.) ANNUAL MEETINGS AND ADEQUATE BUDGETS
TO START AN ACTION-PLAN. All the BLM desert land managers,
and all the
US Fish & Wildlife Endangered Species folks, and all the
State, County and Federal highway roadside vegetation folks, and all the
University researchers, and all the
Native Plant Society people, and all the local
Native American tribal desert land managers, and all the
USGS researchers, and all the
National Parks and National Preserve land managers, and all the
Ranchers holding grazing permits, and all the private ranchers, and all the
TNC desert preserve managers, and all the
Power line and Pipeline right-of-way managers, and representative of the
County and Cities writing HCPs to obtain Permits for development, and don't forget all the
Professional Ecological Restoration practitioners
---need to be holding semi-annual meetings on these two species, with the Federal government land owners coming to the table with adequate budgets to annually manage at least a portion of the infestations, and make up an action plan.
5.) INFESTATIONS on PRIVATE LANDS and COUNTY ROADS -- ESTABLISH A COUNTY-WIDE SPECIAL DISTRICT. In the California desert, there's large tracts of private land, mostly in the western portions of the deserts. In order for the private land owners and County road maintenance to get a grip on these infestations, County-wide Special Property Tax Districts will need to be established, so that there is an adequate annual budget to manage this invasion.
In California we have a similar "Abatement District" format for mosquito control, and also a Special Property Tax District program to fund Habitat Conservation Plans---we have examples of both of these special districts in San Mateo County.
6.) FEDERAL GRAZING PERMITTEES and Private ranch owners. These new exotic mustards, unless they are managed rapidly, may cover grazing lands completely, crowding out the palatable range forage plants, completely blanketing the range.
The BLM permittees and private ranch owners must make absolutely sure that Caltrans and the Bureau of Land Management are both actively involved in successfully eradication of these mustard problems everywhere within a 20 miles radius of wherever their grazing lands are located, because these mustards can move extremely fast and render lands worthless for grazing within a very short amount of time. We're hoping that some of the Beef or Stock Associations will get involved with Caltrans, BLM and their local Congress person, so that sufficient annual budgets could be allocated to eradicate these mustards within a few years.
7.) AGRICULTURAL LAND OWNERS. Fallow agricultural lands in the desert are becoming the major reservoirs for infestation of one of the species, the London Rocket. Ag. land owners will need to manage the mustards infesting their lands and the roadsides adjacent to their lands.
8.) LEGAL EFFECTS of these MUSTARDS on the CALIFORNIA DESERT and ARIZONA DESERT HABITAT CONSERVATION PLANS (HCPs). When these new exotic mustard started spreading into the two deserts, they have the legal effect of causing all the desert HCPs and their Permits to be set aside, until land managers provide the resources and successful technologies to manage these exotic mustards, and restore the local desert ecosystems.
The mustards have created a basic legal problem in the HCPs
process, in that that the Plans can no longer "Perform."
This will impact all the desert HCPs, from the fresh-off-the-press
West Mojave Plan, and the just-out-of-draft Coachella Valley MSHCP.
All desert HCPs and MSHCP now lack the legal ability to "perform," and need nual fundsland managers have both the funds, to be able to manage the mustard at least 2-3 times as fast as it is spreading, plus have the successful proven ecological restoration technologies necessary to convert the mustard infestations back to native vegetation.
9.) WEED-FREE SEEDS and CERTIFIED WEED-FREE STRAW for Caltrans roadside construction. These mustards may get spread along roadsides when seeds are sown and the mustards are a weed-seed contaminant. Also, the small tumble mustard can easily become a straw-bale contaminant, and spread along the roadsides when straw is used for erosion-control for Caltrans construction projects.
10.) SHUT DOWN ORV AREA INFESTED with the mustards, and keep them closed for regular ORV use until the infestation is eradicated. The BLM Jawbone Canyon ORV area in Kern County along Cal. 14, north of the town of Mojave, shows exactly how the motorcycles and ORVs spread the weeds, when the seed pods catch in their equipment. The vehicles become the perfect seed-spreaders, but perhaps the ORV people with their vehicles could now run up and down the slopes to remove the plants?
BLM Jawbone Canyon ORV area
in Kern County, off Cal. 14 north of the town of Mojave, lots of mustard.
Jawbone Canyon ORV area, the Sahara Mustard plants stop where vehicles stop; and the Sahara mustard plants go up slopes where the vehicles go.
11.) GENETIC STUDY ON THE INFESTATIONS. Study the relationships between the populations, and perhaps determine their source of origin. See http://www.ecoseeds.com/mustards.genetics.html
12.) LIST Sahara Mustard as a State PROHIBITED NOXIOUS WEED in every State, and as a Federal Noxious weed nation-wide!
Producing viable Sahara mustard seed for planting, by the U.S. Dept.of Ag. in Ames, Iowa. Photo USDA.
13.) Please - STOP the DISTRIBUTION of VIABLE Sahara mustard seeds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from their collection of 26 accessions, located at the National Genetic Resources Program of the Agricultural Research Service in Ames Iowa.
14.) RESTORE OUR DESERTS NOW! It would
be extremely pitiful to lose our beautiful North America desert
ecosystems, just because we couldn't get organized to manage just
three exotic mustards?
Already the Sahara Mustard is showing up at the edge of Death Valley, and it is already within the Mojave National Preserve, in Joshua Tree NP, in the Grand Canyon NP , in Glen Canyon, in Lake Mead NRA, in Organ Pipe NM, and in Anza Borrego California State Park.
The spring 2005 report from Lake Mead in Nevada regarding the exotic mustard desert environmental-wild-fire --- which you can read about at http://www.ecoseeds.com/lake.mead.html --- is that it is going to cost at least $0.5 million just to manage one of the exotic invasive mustard species at Lake Mead, and to try and keep the Listed Endangered Species from being exterminated.
In the desert portion of California, about half of the land is managed by government agencies, and based on the Lake Mead's experience, here is a list of what each agency needs to budget AT A MINIMUM in FY 2005, to deal with the mustard invasion, for Removal, Disposal, and Ecological Restoration of the original desert ecosystem:
ARMY, NTC Fort Irwin---------------------------
BLM, Barstow Field Manager (includes ORV area)-- 5 million
BLM, El Centro Field Manager------------------- 10 million
BLM, Needles Field Manager---------------------- 5 million
BLM, Palm Springs Field Manager---------------- 10 million
BLM, Ridgecrest Field Manager(includes ORV area) 5 million
California Dept. of Fish Game------------------- 1 million
California State Parks, Colorado Desert Sector- 10 million
California State Parks, Mojave Desert Sector---- 1 million
CalTrans (3/5 of roadsides infested in 2005)--- 40 million
Coachella Valley MSHCP (Gov't agency permit)--- 20 million
Death Valley National Park---------------------- 0.001 million
Edwards AFB------------------------------------- 1 million
FHWA (replanting Cal. 58 & new hwy.construct.)- 24 million
FHWA "X-Prize" SBIR Funding (see "Suggestions") 20 million
Joshua Tree National Park----------------------- 1 million
MARINE CORP., MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms---------- 1 million
Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, CA-------- 1 million
Mojave National Preserve------------------------ 1 million
NAVY, NAWC, China Lake-------------------------- 1 million
USFWS Coachella National Wildlife Refuge------- 10 million
USFWS Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office---------- 0.1 million
West Mojave MSHCP (Gov't agency USFWS permit)--- 2 million
Each agency add 10% for Research of New Control Methods 17 million
TOTAL budget California
Desert exotic mustards = $187.2 million
For the total estimated 32,000 acres in the California desert, this only averages to $5,800 per acre to both eradicate the mustard and restore the native desert ecosystem.
And this level of funding will probably
be needed by each agency for at least 2-3 years, in order to get
all the plants that will come out of
the soil-seedbank, after the above-ground vegetation has been managed.
It's either that we manage the mustards in 2005, or we abandon most of the California desert and Southwest to these species, when they take over completely -- like they have in parts of Anza Borrego State Park http://www.ecoseeds.com/mustards.s22.html and the Coachella Valley at http://www.ecoseeds.com/mustards.coachella.html .
I'm writing this so that each agency can
start getting their Congressional funds together for their "No
Mustard Left Behind" program---we have nothing to lose except
for our Desert ecosystems and their Endangered Species
The Sahara Mustard has become so common in the Southern California desert, that it is showing up in Macy newspaper ads (S.F. Chronicle March 5, 2006, page A5):