Our desert is home to habitats and species found nowhere else on earth. Even though they may be protected on paper, they need protection from threats on the ground, like invasive species. Invasive species are a leading cause of extinction worldwide, second only to habitat destruction.
Friends of the Desert Mountains (FODM) works to control and remove invasive weed species that threaten critical riparian and sand dune habitats, including Saharan mustard, fountain grass, and tamarisk. These species consume already scarce water and nutrients, create fire hazards, and crowd out native plants and animals.
As a special event FODM and local Boy Scouts combined to perform 'weed warrior' support in Palm Desert. We worked with the Boy Scouts to clear Saharan mustard weed from sand dunes in a reptile-protected area.
Before the work started, Jenn from FODM provided basic education/training to the Scouts on identifying Saharan mustard weed and the impact the weed has on local plant and reptiles. Saharan mustard is native to the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East but recently it has become abundant in low deserts including the Sonoran and Mojave and within the Coachella Valley.
With people, gloves, plastic collection bags, and a disposal dumpster, we attacked the dunes.
The plant disperses easily at the first hint of rain. When the seed coats are moistened they form a gel and become very sticky and readily adhere to people, animals, and objects. Thick stands of the plant can crowd out native flora. Well-adapted to desert life, it monopolizes any moisture in the soil before other plants can get it and forms seeds before other species do. It produces seed as early in the year as January.
Over the course of a few hours, the group filled a large number of plastic bags. The bags were emptied into a large roll-off dumpster. Look at the size of the dumpster and realize that after a few weed warrior events in this area, the entire dumpster was full.