SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A non-native plant that became a threat to birds and wildlife in San Francisco Bay has been nearly eradicated more than four decades after federal officials introduced it to the region.
The area occupied by Atlantic cordgrass around the bay is down to 28 acres from 805 acres in 2005, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The decrease came after the California Coastal Conservancy handed out state and federal funds to spray it, pull or cut it, and grind it up. The project has cost about $30 million so far.
“It’s biological pollution,” said Marilyn Latta, manager of the project for the conservancy, a state agency based in Oakland.
The Army Corps of Engineers planted Atlantic cordgrass in 1973 to control erosion and restore a marsh. But it spread and crossbred with native Pacific cordgrass, the Mercury News reported. Atlantic cordgrass has extensive root systems that force out food that birds rely on.
Scientists worried that non-native cordgrass could jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars spent to restore wetlands and convert former salt evaporation ponds back to natural marshes for ducks, fish, harbor seals and shorebirds.
The project to get rid of the cordgrass began in 2005. It is not easy work.
“It is incredibly difficult to physically access some of these areas,” Latta said. “We can’t go in at high tide when the plants are submerged, and if anyone’s ever walked through a mud flat in boots they know they can sink quickly.”
The project has also included restoration efforts, with crews planting hundreds of thousands of native plant seedlings.