If you are concerned about mudslides near your property because there isn’t enough vegetation cover and are considering spreading wildflower seeds, we strongly encourage you to instead consider using jute netting which is an alternative and more effective preventative measure. The best available science tells us to install erosion control netting and wattles, and let our native fire-following plants sprout up without competition from introduced non-native competitors.
Seeding is not an effective method for preventing erosion for a few reasons:
Spreading seeds is simply redundant because most natural areas already have a substantial seed bank with a variety of local species that respond quickly to fire. Spreading seeds would effectively be like washing your car in the rain.
Additionally, spreading California-native seeds that were not collected in our local area may negatively affect our local species’ genetic integrity and nullify any local adaptations they may have or be developing.
Our recommendation is to use biodegradable matting (like coconut fiber) with a wide weave so plants can sprout through it. The matting should be placed on bare slopes and held in place with fabric staples or wooden stakes. On very steep slopes, netting rolled into wattles is an effective means of slowing water to help prevent flash flooding. Most hardware stores carry both netting and wattles, especially now after the fire and mudslide.
We would happily provide free advice or consultation for any concerned Santa Barbara or Ventura County residents. Get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanner Yould is a member of the nonprofit Channel Islands Restoration.