CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Camp Pendleton is continuously maintaining vernal pool habitats in an effort to preserve the environment on base and enhance the coastal bluff overlooking the San Onofre State Beach.
The base began coordinating with California State Parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services during the fourth quarter of 2014, conducting habitat replacement for the San Diego Fairy Shrimp, a federally listed endangered species.
“There’s a federal requirement to protect the species and their habitat,” said James Asmus, wildlife biologist with the base Environmental Security Department. “These are communities of plants and animals that serve other portions of the ecosystem and some of those portions benefit us directly.”
Vernal pools serve as specialized seasonal habitats for Fairy Shrimp to survive during the Spring and Summer months.
“The vernal pools serve as a good source of protein for ducks and other wildlife that licensed hunters can hunt,” said Asmus.
There are approximately 4,000 vernal pools on Camp Pendleton. The amount of pools differ throughout the year due to changes in temperature, weather and other ecological conditions.
“There are places where old fighting positions or depressions made from construction now have listed shrimp and plants,” said Asmus. “We also have road pools where there are rarely any plants but still draw in crustaceans. In January and February you can find Fairy Shrimp in there. I think it’s pretty remarkable.”
Vernal pools in Southern California are rare due to the droughts and erosive effects of coastal development but the base Environmental Security Department is committed to preserving natural resources and environmental stewardship.
“We try to locate and identify where the vernal pools are so we can preserve their conditions,” said Asmus. “If they’re in poor condition, we restore those pools and we conduct surveys to determine if they’re occupied by endangered plants or animals. Finally, we monitor the pools to see if their ecology changes over time.”
As the base protects training areas from urban construction it also preserves ecological conditions in these areas and allows vernal pools to develop.
“In the San Diego County, approximately 90 percent of vernal pools are on Marine Corps bases,” said Asmus. “The Marine Corps keeps training areas undeveloped to conserve the wildlife in those areas while maintaining operability for training.”
“In a sense, the military mission is very complementary to resource conservation,” added Asmus.