Irvine Ranch and UC Irvine researchers are undergoing a project that examines the ranch's native plant communities and its potentially threatening, non-native plant species.
The research project is the first launched that's part of a five-year, $1-million grant awarded to UCI in November by the Irvine Co. and its chairman, Donald Bren. The researchers will scientifically investigate the ranch's environmental challenges and come up with solutions.
Some of the ranch's non-native plants were brought over from the Mediterranean rim by California's early Spanish colonialists.Those foreign plants thrived in the Southern California climate, which is similar to sections of the Mediterranean.
But over time, the non-native species have started pushing out the native ones, which are important for sustaining the wildlife whose habitat is the land in and around Irvine Ranch, scientists say.
The agricultural practices that accompanied the cultivation of non-native flora also affected the survival of the native plants. Many of the non-natives thrived in a disturbed environment, continuing to grow even if they were plowed by machines, grazed on by animals or singed by brush fires. The native plants, however, did not grow well under such adverse conditions.