How many times have you heard that humans are a detriment to biodiversity?? Many! And there are a many million (exaggerating) ways we are detrimental. BUT! It doesn’t have to be that way and we are changing it! We really are as we learn more about how to live sustainably within our ecosystems. In the very case of my endangered Ohlone tiger beetle, we human’s are actually creating habitat that is lost because of invasive grasses.
Recreation, or hiking and biking, in some areas can not only get people out in nature and be the reason for new parks, it also can create and keep up habitat. The Ohlone tiger beetle needs bare ground for finding food and laying eggs. A lot of this bare ground is gone because of invasive grasses covering it up and lack of natural disturbance, like fire, creating bare ground. So, what do the beetles use? Trails! They also use bare ground created by ground squirrels and moles, but trails are the main hunting grounds in their habitat. Thus, recreation is beneficial to the Ohlone tiger beetle. Of course, bikes or people walking can squish beetles but the overall effect of recreation is positive for the beetle population.
Part of my research looks at ways we can manage recreation to keep trails open and minimize beetle death. I’m surveying recreationists to get their attitudes and perceptions of the beetle management as well as looking at how recreation affects the beetle’s behavior. I was just out yesterday (we’ve had warm and sunny weather in Santa Cruz!) doing surveys on the trail head with a Watonsville high school science teacher- Bill Callahan! He and I are working together through a GK-12 program (more on that to come). Anyways, he is famous in Santa Cruz as Bill the Oyster Man. He is a great guy and research assistant.