The Current Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 26

The RIVRLab recently joined with California Trout to form a Cooperative Research Agreement for carrying out studies of trout and their habitats in the southern California region and to promote conservation measures that will benefit, in particular, the federally listed southern California steelhead trout. RIVRLab is affiliated with UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) which has been involved in research involving California trout and the watersheds they inhabit almost since its inception in the 1970s.

MSI has conducted local studies of rainbow trout ecology in intermittent streams of coastal southern California, and other studies with native and non-native trout in the Sierra Nevada, particularly through UCSB’s Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab near Mammoth.

The MSI research group has consisted of Scott Cooper, John Melack, Roland Knapp, David Herbst and others, including the current RIVRLab director, Tom Dudley. Dudley previously led studies in the Golden Trout Wilderness Area of livestock impacts and habitat restoration in meadow streams sustaining the California State Fish. Information from that work provided part of the basis for litigation by California Trout to encourage the U.S. Forest Service to improve livestock grazing practices in the southern Sierra Nevada for enhancing trout habitat.

Dudley and RIVRLab project director Adam Lambert are currently focused on invasive species control and riparian restoration in coastal rivers, particularly the Santa Clara River, with emphasis on removal of invasive Arundo donax, or giant reed, which forms dense, highly flammable 6-meter tall stands across the floodplain. (For more on the giant reed removal, see this story in the Spring 2016 issue.) They are also actively restoring native cottonwood-willow riparian woodlands for wildlife conservation.

Arundo control and riparian restoration not only enhances habitat for several federally protected terrestrial species such as least Bell’s vireo, yellow-billed cuckoo and southwestern willow flycatcher, but, as noted in the NMFS Recovery Plan for southern steelhead trout, benefits aquatic habitat by cooling waters with native canopy shade, removing stream blockage, improving channel morphology, and providing food resources through inputs of native leaf litter because our prior studies have shown