Meadows Field Season is Here!
The high elevation regions of the Sierra form the headwaters of California and Nevada’s major rivers and the snowmelt from these areas provides the bulk of these states’ water supplies. Peppered along waterways at these elevations, are beautiful Sierra meadows.
These popular recreation sites are critical to their larger watersheds because they function as natural reservoirs, reducing peak flood flows and storing water into the late season. Unfortunately, many meadows in the Sierra have become greatly impaired due to historic land uses and provide reduced ecosystem benefits.
To address this problem, American Rivers is currently working on a number of on-the-ground meadow restoration efforts as well as conducting large scale assessments of meadow condition in several watersheds. But the field season at these sites is limited, since snow prevents assessment and can complicate accessibility. Luckily for our field team (but unfortunate for water users), the snowpack is melting exceptionally early this year, and we’ve been able to get a jump start on our full fieldwork schedule.
This season we plan to assess the condition of all meadows in three river’s watersheds: the American and the Kern on the west side of the Sierra, and the Walker on the east side. We will use this condition data to prioritize the poorest condition sites for restoration. So far this season we’ve assessed several meadows in the American and Walker River watersheds, and we’re planning a 10 day back-packing trip to assess Kern meadows in July.
We’ve also been out collecting pre- and post-project data at our current on-the-ground project sites – Hope Valley and Indian Valley. This data helps inform project designs and demonstrates whether the meadow’s ecologic function has been repaired by the project. Additional fieldwork in Hope Valley has included willow planting with our project partners, Friends of Hope Valley and their community volunteers. Planting willows improves meadow functionality by stabilizing stream banks, thereby reducing erosion and improving water quality downstream.
With such a limited season and so much planned, it’s undoubtedly going to be a busy summer. But I can’t imagine a more beautiful office than the High Sierra in the summer time.