Cottonwood and community at Restoria

The Putah-Cache Bioregion Project:


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Restoria is a community-based habitat restoration project established in 1998 with the support of the Putah Creek Council and the University of California at Davis. Located on the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, this eight-acre site represents an ideal opportunity to pursue community-based environmental stewardship, education, and restoration ecology research.

Although severely threatened by exotic species such as tamarisk, perennial pepperweed, yellow star-thistle and eucalyptus, the Riparian Reserve provides habitat for several wildlife species of special concern including Swainsonís hawk, northwestern pond turtle, giant garter snake and valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The endangered chinook salmon and pacific lamprey found in the creek are greatly affected by the reserveís condition with regard to shaded riverine aquatic habitat.

One of the few remaining natural areas in Davis, the reserve is used daily by walkers, runners, cyclists, horseback riders, naturalists, and now, thanks to Restoria, restorationists. More than 200 volunteers have completed over 600 hours of work monitoring, planning, planting trees, shrubs and grasses, and removing trash and exotic species from the site.

The work at Restoria can be divided into the following four tasks: habitat restoration, stewardship program development, monitoring and research.

Habitat Restoration

Volunteer groups, led by the site managers, carry out the work necessary to implement Restoriaís management plan, planting native vegetation, removing exotic species, and conducting experiments in the field. The site managers purchase necessary plant materials, tools, and equipment to carry out this plan, but our slim budget has limited us to donations from generous local nurseries and businesses.

Stewardship Program Development

Since community participation is our highest priority, virtually all the work at Restoria is conducted by volunteers from diverse segments of the local community. Whenever possible, we coordinate and pool volunteer resources with other restoration projects in the watershed. We draw from community service programs and classrooms at local schools, as well as from various university courses in order to combine education with restoration on the site. We are currently developing relationships with local teachers in order to develop a formalized education program at middle and high school levels. We have also developed an internship program in order to provide technical field work and community outreach experience for undergraduate UC Davis students, while increasing our own programís effectiveness.


Before the initial 1998 planting we laid out approximately one half of the site in a replicated block design in order to test several restoration-related variables. We are currently experimenting with various weed control and planting techniques, including using pre-augered holes for plants, mulching, applying herbicides, planting native cover crops, mowing and burning. We are also testing the effectiveness of different irrigation regimes. Finally, in a more interdisciplinary study, I am attempting to assess the effect of the restoration experience on the local community and volunteers who participate in the project in order to support the use of community participation in restoration projects whenever possible.


Due to its proximity to UC Davis, Restoria benefits from long-term data sets for vegetation, wildlife and human use information. Under the direction of Peter Moyle, researchers have monitored fish populations just upstream from Restoria for twenty years. Bird and wildlife studies have been conducted in the area since 1997. The University collected detailed baseline information about plants, animals and human use for the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve Management plan in 1986.

We recently completed our first year of vegetation monitoring in order to assess the early success of the Restoria project. We have also established permanent photo-monitoring points in order to track qualitatively the changes over time due to our efforts. In addition to tracking these ecological changes, we maintain detailed records of the number volunteer hours spent working on the site as well as the amount of money spent on the project. This allows us to assess the economic efficiency and overall effectiveness of the community-based nature of the project.

For more information about Restoria please contact Dan Leroy, Project Coordinator, at

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