Anacapa Island provides critical habitat for seabirds, pinnipeds and several endemic plants and animals. It is home to 16 plants endemic to the California Channel Islands, two of which are unique to Anacapa. Anacapa’s dense vegetation was once dominated by the showy plants giant coreopsis, gumplant, island tarweed, live-forever, Santa Cruz Island buckwheat, sagebrush, saltbush, lemonade berry and island mallow, which provided shelter, perches and nesting habitat for seabirds and land birds. Their large quantities of seeds provided abundant food for the endemic Anacapa deer mouse, and for many small birds.
Small-scale eradication of iceplant in the vicinity of the buildings began in the late 1980s, done by Anacapa Ranger and Maintenance staff. In 1993, Sarah Chaney, a restoration ecologist with Channel Islands National Park, began working with volunteers and researchers to expand iceplant removal to the rest of the island, and by 2010, about 14 acres of iceplant had been cleared. October 2011 saw the commencement of intensive iceplant removal, with the receipt of the first of three years of National Park Service funding for iceplant eradication. At the end of 2010, Channel Islands Restoration helped fund and construct a native plant nursery on the island in partnership with the NPS. Channel Islands National Park operation funds have supported the nursery improvements and upkeep since then. The Ventura County Master Gardeners along with many other volunteers have grown an impressive 20,000 plants in the nursery since that time. These include giant coreopsis, California barley, purple needlegrass, gum plant, alkali-heath and many others—thirty species, to date.
Through inspired partnerships and lots of combined effort, the NPS, CIR and many, many volunteers have changed the face of East Anacapa Island. Formerly the bright red flowers of the non-native, invasive iceplant would color much of the landscape. This year, the landscape was colored bright yellow by the flowers of the native plants like giant coreopsis, gumplant and island tarweed. Western gull chicks that were formerly exposed to predators and the elements on a low, flat, open iceplant landscape, were instead able to find refuge among the varied structures of the taller native plants that were grown and planted by volunteers. Volunteers of all ages obtained a new understanding of this rare island habitat and gained a valuable education of the importance of habitat restoration. The work continues into 2013 and beyond.