Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Drought takes toll at Jepson Prairie

jepson Prairie drought 2_17_14

Olcott Lake, the largest of the vernal pools at Jepson Prairie Preserve, is only covering about two-thirds of its normal area, according to docent Kate Mawdsley. Drought conditions have created less than ideal conditions for the area and the Solano Land Trust has called off the tours to the area for the first time since 1992. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | February 19, 2014 | 2 Comments

DIXON — A drought-sapped Jepson Prairie is unlikely this year to give birth to a bumper crop of rare fairy shrimp and dazzling displays of wildflowers.

For most of the winter, the prairie’s vast, rain-fed vernal pools didn’t contain enough water for a vernal puddle. Recent storms may be too late for this ecosystem in eastern Solano County along Highway 113 to go through anything approaching its usual, brief cycle of life.

Kate Mawdsley and others who give guided tours at the 1,566-acre Solano Land Trust property have their doubts. They’ve agreed to call off the tours for the first time since 1992, the last year of a six-year drought.

“We really felt it wasn’t fair to say, ‘Look and see what vernal pools can be like’ when this is a year they’re not going to be that way,” Mawdsley said.

At best, it’s going to be a bad year for wildflowers, she said. She hasn’t seen any signs at Jepson Prairie that many of the plants people like to see have germinated.

Should the situation change dramatically, the guides could still put together tours for a brief period, she said.

Meanwhile, people can still go out to the Jepson Prairie preserve on their own to see what the drought has done to the environment there. The preserve is located near the intersection of Highway 113 and Cook Lane about 10 miles south of Dixon.

Jepson Prairie is home to clay-lined soil that holds water from winter storms, forming vernal pools. The largest is 93-acre Olcott Lake, covering an area twice as large as Fairfield’s Allan Witt Park when at capacity.

The prairie is a rare type of habitat and as such is home to a variety of rare creatures and plants, from the vernal pool fairy shrimp to the California tiger salamander to Colusa grass to the Delta tule pea.

During a typical year, guides give tours every weekend from early March to mid-May. They show visitors the vernal pools that in spring become an explosion of yellow, white, pink and purple wildflowers. Some guides have federal permits that allow them to dip into the pools for fairy shrimp so visitors can see the rare creatures.

Mawdsley got trained as a docent in 1987. She knows as well as anybody what Jepson Prairie should look like at this time of year.

On a recent visit, she saw an Olcott Lake covering about two-thirds of its normal area and much shallower than the 18 inches to 24 inches that is typical for the deepest parts. She saw vegetation she described as being very much retarded in its growth.

The vernal pools typically fill in December and stay at the same level until it gets warm in mid-March, then slowly evaporate until they are gone by June, she said.

“This, of course, has been anything but a typical year,” Mawdsley said.

Robbin Thorp is a bee expert and professor emeritus with the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of California, Davis. He too sees an atypical spring ahead at Jepson Prairie, no matter what happen from this point on.

“It’s too late to germinate most of those plants and get them into bloom now,” Thorp said.

Thorp saw Jepson Prairie during 1975-76 and 1976-77, a one-two punch of dryness that is the worst recorded drought in California. The state measures its rainy season from July through June.

A wildflower called meadowfoam was missing the second year of that drought. This caught Thorp’s attention because meadowfoam has a specialist bee that requires pollen it gets only from this plant’s white flowers.

Then came 1977-78, with abundant rain. Jepson Prairie bounced back with no signs of lasting harm.

“The meadowfoam was everywhere and the bees were everywhere,” Thorp said.

All of that means Jepson Prairie should bounce back from this drought, too. It has survived droughts that have come and gone over thousands of years.

“Both the plants and the bees have their survival mechanisms,” Thorp said.

Mawdsley said the flowers have seed banks. California tiger salamanders are adapted to not being able to breed for a year or two or three. Fairy shrimp cysts can last for years and even decades before hatching.

Thorp and Mawdsley both plan to visit Jepson Prairie this spring, even though the vernal pools won’t be in their full glory with plants and wildlife.

“This is not a good year to see the prairie at its best,” Thorp said. “But it is instructive to see how persistent the prairie can be over time.”

Mawdsley said she’ll go out at intervals to see what happens at the prairie.

“Every year is different,” Mawdsley said. “I’ve become attached to the place. I’m invested in it, really not in the financial sense, but I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours there.”

Please go to www.solanolandtrust.org/JepsonPrairie.aspx for more information on Jepson Prairie and how to visit it.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rich GiddensFebruary 19, 2014 - 8:01 am

    I'm at loss for an appropriate analogy or metaphor but the natural cycle of drought and flood is as Caifornian as it gets. There is nothing unnatural about the current cycle. See for yourselves----this from the state government itself. Since 1900 there have been many droughts----1918-1920, 1923-1926, 1828-1935, 1947-1950, 1959-1962, 1976-1977, 1987-1992, 2000-2002, 2007-2009. Droughts are supposed to be planned for and mitigated by the construction and proper management of dams, watersheds and basins along with a transfer system. Your State has failed to keep up with a growing population (currently 38 million people) and now it squeals like a stuck pig over a situation it itself caused. You should start building dams but there's always an environmental objection from the same people who now whine about the lack of water and its dire consequences.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 19, 2014 - 5:17 pm

    Yep. Lack of storage is the problem. All we do is move the water around.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 7 Comments

.

Opinion

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 14 Comments

 
Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9