The collection of rare and unique coastal terrace prairie plant communities found on POST's Cloverdale Coastal Ranches property is the third largest remnant of this extremely rare habitat left in California. Identified as one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in North America, this ecosystem is a treasure to preserve and sustain. That's why POST has tested several techniques to revitalize this native habitat, including the use of prescribed fire on the land.
For thousands of years, Native Americans in the area regularly used fire to transform shrubland to grassland. This process cleared the land to make travel easier and safer, and encouraged the growth of seed-rich grasses and habitation by deer, rabbit, quail and mourning doves–important staples in the local Native American diet. To keep the coastal prairie healthy, POST has revived a similar form of habitat management, using prescribed fire managed by the California Department of Forestry to ensure safety.
Like many other grassland communities, coastal terrace prairie must be "disturbed" through grazing, mowing or fire to help germinate seeds, cycle nutrients and control invasive species, such as pampas grass, that can crowd out native vegetation. Seeds for many native varieties of grass tend to lie dormant in the soil for as long as 25 to 100 years, needing the right set of conditions to re-sprout. Prescribed fire stimulates the seeds, bringing back plants that in some cases have been gone for decades from the land. It also helps rehabilitate native habitat of rare and endangered wildlife and reduces the risk of wildfire outbreak by eliminating excess fuel material.