California and Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, are like sibling landscapes. Both experience the warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters common to Mediterranean-climate habitats. From a distance, their oak-studded hillsides and drought-resistant shrublands are hard to tell apart. And both regions struggle with dense human populations, summer fires, and invasive vegetation.
So it should come as no surprise that an exchange between staff of natural preserves in both areas has sparked promising international relationships. The exchanges were made possible with funding from the UC Natural Reserve System.
In spring 2011, the NRS launched the Mediterranean Reserve Managers International Cooperative (MRMIC) with scientists and land managers from the five Mediterranean-climate ecosystems. The NRS then sponsored $5,000 MRMIC Fellowships to support the international exchange of reserve managers, scientists, and others involved in the conservation and management of protected areas in Mediterranean-climate ecosystems.
UC Davis reserve manager Jeffrey Clary was awarded a MRMIC Fellowship enabling an exchange between staff at the UC Davis reserves and land managers in Catalonia. Clary, UC Davis reserve director Virginia Boucher, and reserves analyst Shane Waddell traveled to Barcelona last April. They toured Parc de Collsera, an extensive natural area adjacent to the city, visited a research station, and met with scientists studying animal tracking, fire suppression, vegetation management, and oaks.
The UC Davis staff were able to leverage the MRMIC Fellowship to obtain funding for additional travel within Europe. After leaving Barcelona, they met with researchers from the Max Planck Institut für Ornithologie in Germany developing an automated animal-tracking system in parallel with Quail Ridge Reserve, and scientists at the Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionelle et Evolutive in France studying dormancy in grasses from Mediterranean regions.
This March, Clary and colleagues reciprocated by hosting scientists from Catalonia in the Central Valley. The visitors toured the NRS's Quail Ridge and Bodega Marine reserves, protected lands along the American River, and the UC Davis campus. Along the way, they learned about native planting and landscaping programs, invasive plant management initiatives, and research on animal tracking and small mammals being conducted at the reserves.
"Land managers, by the nature of their work, may often feel isolated and overwhelmed," Clary wrote in his fellowship report. "Our visit ... in Barcelona last spring was the first such interaction many of the land managers had had. They were engaged and encouraged by similar work that was being done elsewhere in the world. There is strong desire to maintain and (where possible by joint funding requests) expand the relationships that have been established."