A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
December 8, 2005 Volume 36 / Number 4


Project Attacks Invasive Plants in Lindo Channel

The Research Foundation has received approximately $150,000 in grant funding in support of a three-year Arundo donax eradication project in Lindo Channel, through a grant from the California Bay-Delta Authority and in partnership with Team Arundo del Norte. The director is Kristin Cooper-Carter, environmental projects director, College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management, and the project manager is Susan Mason.

Arundo donax, or giant reed, is an invasive plant species that threatens California’s riparian ecosystems by competing with native species for water. It grows rapidly to a height of 30 feet, creating mono-cultural stands that are flammable. The plant is spread by underground rhizomes and from clumps of arundo being transported downstream during high water events.

Arundo is originally from India. In ancient times it was transplanted to the Mediterranean region, and later to the Americas. Today it is an invasive pest throughout the warmer coastal freshwaters of the United States, from Maryland to Northern California. Arundo came to Southern California with early Spanish settlers. It now occurs in most regions of California below approximately 1,000 feet.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service encouraged land managers to plant it as a bank stabilizer in the 1950s. Since that time it has become uncontrollable in our watersheds. Team Arundo del Norte is a partnership that is dedicated to the reduction and eventual elimination of giant reed in central and northern California.

The original source of the arundo in Lindo Channel is from Big Chico Creek near the Bidwell Park Golf Course. The Chico Park Division is in the process of eradicating these upstream arundo populations.

Arundo eradication itself is fairly straightforward but labor-intensive, said Cooper-Carter. “Besides a possible short-term spike in downstream fine sediment supply, there are no adverse effects of arundo eradication,” said Cooper-Carter. “Generally, a systemic herbicide licensed for use near water, such as Rodeo or Aqua Master and/or Round-Up Pro and Stalker for plants out of the active flood channel, must be applied to kill the root system of every plant. For arundo, herbicide application in the fall right before the plant goes dormant is critical.”

Determining when the arundo plant will go dormant can be tricky, said Cooper-Carter. “In general, we look for signs of slowed plant growth and a slight browning of the leaves. Because the damage and expense of arundo eradication work increases greatly as infestations get larger, it is imperative that control efforts proceed immediately.”

Cooper-Carter, Mason, and other project planners have taken great pains to include multiple agencies and landowners in the project. Participating landowners may choose to allow a licensed herbicide applicator onto their property to treat the plants at no cost to them.

The City of Chico and the Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance are co-sponsors of the removal effort. The Research Foundation is one of 10 partners in high-priority watersheds that are participating in the Northern California Arundo Eradication and Coordination Program.

As the former director of the Environmental Resource Program at CSU, Chico, Cooper-Carter assisted in the management of all environmental projects on campus. Susan Mason has experience as a software developer, researcher, and, in the last six years, as an environmental worker in the Chico area.

—Kathleen McPartland