The main objectives of my research are to help improve restoration methods of California coastal grassland.

My work seeks to understand how restoration will respond to drought, but also what practitioners perceive as the greatest barriers to success. 

My research aspires to help connect private, public, and non-profit agencies and their management practices to improve restoration planning and knowledge transfer, focusing on the ecological restoration of California coastal prairies and grasslands.

Financial investment in restoration is large and only continuing to grow. Despite the growing investment and community engagement, investments are still dispersed, providing bare-minimum funds for scattered restoration projects. This low, project-specific, funding can cause a heavier focus on implementation, and less on tracking restoration outcomes. As a result, few restoration projects are tracked beyond the first few years post-implementation.

In order to address this, I am undertaking a regional-scale assessment of restored coastal grasslands that have actively reintroduced native plants. 

My 32 sites range from Santa Barbara to Humboldt counties, are up to 31 years post-implementation, and range from 1 – 30 acres in size. In conjunction with ecological field surveys, I also collected project documents and will interview restoration practitioners to determine the sustainability of coastal grassland restoration and major barriers to its success. I also have an experimental design at Younger Lagoon Reserve in Santa Cruz, where I am exploring the effects of extreme drought on planting success.

My goal with this project is to determine if there are predictive measures that can be used during plant selection to improve planting survival and restoration success.

Why I love grasslands

Justin working with restoration practitioners. Photo courtesy: Justin Luong.

I love grasslands because they are beautiful, underappreciated, and overlooked. They contain a large suite of diversity and host a large proportion of endangered and sensitive species.

Grasslands have spectacular wildflower blooms, and even though blooms are amazing, the grasses themselves are ignored.

Grasses also have flowers, which is only common knowledge to few, but if we really take the time to look at them, we can see how beautiful they can be.

4 facts about grasslands

Flowering grass. Courtesy: Justin Luong.

1) California grassland restoration seeks to bring back historic plant communities which consist of long-lived bunch grasses and colorful annual wildflowers. 

2) Native grasslands can provide great rangelands for cattle and in some cases restoration is needed because incoming weeds may be toxic forage. 

3) A lot of grassland restoration in California is actually done on a voluntary (non-compliance) basis.

4) Native bunch grasses can live for hundreds of years, have small beautiful flowers, and have roots that reach several meters deep.

Connect with Justin

All photos courtesy of Justin Luong.

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