- Published on Tuesday, 03 January 2012 18:34
Can you imagine sowing a seed smaller than the eye of a needle, and six months later basking in the shade of that little seed--now a verdant, nearly-2 meter tall tree?
If it seems impossible, check out the photos below. At our direct-seeding restoration site, located about an hour southwest of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, miniscule seeds exploded into a young native forest in a matter of months. All we did was add a little water.
Above: Karen Schlatter, Colorado River Delta Program Associate, standing as reference point for photographic monitoring.
In April of this year, the ground you see in the picture above was completely bare. We cleared it of all non-native plants, primarily salt cedar--which dominates much of the riparian area along the Colorado River--and used a hydroseeder to sow native cottonwood and willow. (A hydroseeder is a large tank in which seed, water, and mulch are mixed together. It is connected to a long firehose which is used to spray the mixture on the land). Six months later the trees were well above even one of the taller Delta employee's heads (that's Karen, our Program Associate, in the photo above). Below is a photographic comparison taken form the same monitoring point between April and September.
Below: Photographic comparison showing native tree growth from April-September, 2011.
Photographic monitoring for 2011 ended in October to coincide with the beginning of the dormant season, when the trees slow their growth considerably to conserve energy for the winter months. This monitoring will start up again between March and April when the growing season begins.
Direct seeding, or hydroseeding, is one of the three main methods we currently use in native habitat restoration. The other two are branch cuttings (as discussed in the previous post), and pole cuttings, which are similar to branch cuttings but are cut longer and are transplanted into the ground 5-7 days after harvest. The combination of these methods provide us with flexibility in our approach to restoration, allowing us to adapt to sites with variable conditions.
Though we are still in the midst of winter, spring will be upon us soon. Stands of native forest will continue to grow along the Colorado River, and more and more will be planted this spring. And if it's hard to believe how much the trees grew in one season, check out what they can do it two. The photo below was taken in August 2011 of a cottonwood planted in the spring of 2010 (planted from a branch cutting 6-12 inches in height).
The meter stick reaches 5m; the tree surpassed that.
Above: Morgan, a monitoring volunteer, holds a 5m stadia rod against a cottonwood planted from a branch cutting in spring of 2010.