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Meadows function to filter and hold water , saving it like a bank for longterm use by downhill communities from CA's Great Central Valley

The meadows of the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range are an iconic resource that embodies the spirit and grandeur of the American West. The stunning vistas across meadows observed by early inhabitants were maintained by a dynamic interplay of biotic and abiotic forces, and functioned to bridge aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.  Meadows are not only key habitat for fishes, amphibians, birds, and mammals alike, but also provide enumerable ecosystem services to humans. Chief among these services is water regulation, in which meadows serve to attenuate flood flows, sustain base flows, and filter out undesirable constituents. Unfortunately, meadows of the Sierra Nevada are highly degraded throughout the range.

The montane meadows of the Sierra Nevada have endured more than 150 years of intensive human use of ecosystem-based services, not limited to regulating services (e.g., water filtration), provisioning services (e.g., grazing), and aesthetics. Unfortunately, this resource is likely undervalued as the intensive human uses have led to widespread ecosystem degradation in the form of erosion, incision, loss of water table, encroachment of xeric and non-native vegetation, loss of native species, and exacerbated disturbance regimes, such as catastrophic wildfire. Thus, even in the absence of hydroclimatic alteration, it would be important to inventory and assess the integrity of this important resource, and further to establish a framework for its long-term conservation and functional restoration where warranted. 

Ecologically and hydrologically functioning montane meadows provide a variety of ecosystem services. They serve as wetlands; filtering water, attenuating floods, providing highly productive habitat and refuge from high flows when inundated (Loheide et al. 2009; Lowry et al. 2011). Meadows also support adjacent lacustrine and riparian ecosystems by stabilizing streambanks and shorelines, improving water quality by filtering sediments, and providing key pathways for hydrologic cycling.

With WildPlaces' help, the Forest Service proposes to restore 10 meadows to be treated in the Sequoia Prioritized Ten Meadows Restoration Project (Ten Meadows Project) located in two areas on the forest (see Map 1).  This watershed improvement project across ten meadows in the headwaters of the North and South Forks of the Kern River proposes to improve the resiliency of montane meadows and channel ecosystems and watershed hydrologic processes.  The proposed treatments include active restoration which varies in intensity with the extent of the degradation of the meadow.  All of the proposed treatments will be installed in the field to site-specific conditions.  Much of the proposed work entails filling incised channels,  building grade control structures , and vegetating with willows and other meadow plant species. Collecting cuttings, propagating seedlings and planting willows is where we come in...volunteers are needed to help manage the nursery in Springville, conduct outreach events about meadow restoration, and attend multi-day meadow restoration events in the mountains. Join us!

 

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