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Posted: May 27, 2021
The goal of this project was to identify priority meadows for restoration in the Storrie Fire nexus watersheds and develop restoration designs for the priority meadows. We used a rigorous prioritization process using the American Rivers’ meadow condition scorecard, the Sierra Meadow Prioritization Tool, and additional field assessments to reduce a dataset of 90 meadows into a smaller subset of priorities, resulting in 8 high priority meadows set to be restored in 2021.

Posted: May 27, 2021
The purpose of this tool is to help restoration practitioners plan for climate change in revegetation efforts by identifying plant species that have traits that will increase the likelihood that they will survive, recruit, and continue to provide additional co-benefits under projected future conditions. Our ultimate goal is to increase the resilience of wet meadow restoration projects in the context of climate change while providing additional co-benefits, including wildlife habitat and ecosystem services.

Posted: January 28, 2021
Beaver-related restoration is a process-based strategy that seeks to address wide-ranging ecological objectives by reestablishing dam building in degraded stream systems. Although the beaver-related restoration has broad appeal, especially in water-limited systems, its effectiveness is not yet well documented. In this article, we present a process-expectation framework that links beaver-related restoration tactics to commonly expected outcomes by identifying the set of process pathways that must occur to achieve those expected outcomes. We explore the contingency implicit within this framework using social and biophysical data from project and research sites. This analysis reveals that outcomes are often predicated on complex process pathways over which humans have limited control. Consequently, expectations often shift through the course of projects, suggesting that a more useful paradigm for evaluating process-based restoration would be to identify relevant processes and to rigorously document how projects do or do not proceed along expected process pathways using both quantitative and qualitative data.

Posted: November 19, 2020
Field assessment results/data for 10 protocols, conducted in 2019.

Posted: November 19, 2020
Field assessment results/data for 8 different protocols, conducted in 2019.

Posted: November 19, 2020
Field assessment results/data for 8 different protocols, conducted in 2019.

Posted: May 1, 2020
Final project report for the Mountain Meadows Restoration Project at Greenville Creek and Upper Goodrich and Effects on Greenhouse Gases funded by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Welands Restoration for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program.

Posted: March 23, 2020
Between 2013 and 2016, American Rivers was funded by CABY to use the scorecard in the American Basin to guide investment and accelerate the pace of restoration. We assessed every accessible meadow in the watershed that is larger than 15 acres, 40 in all. We identified 13 priority meadows for restoration in collaboration with stakeholders in the American basin.

Posted: March 17, 2020
The Carman Watershed Restoration Project Phase 2 Post-Project and Adaptive Management Monitoring Report summarizes early season (February-March 2020) post-project condition of the Carman Watershed Restoration Phase 2 projects. Phase 2 project sites include Site #1 Folchi Meadows, Site #2 Folchi Meadows Railroad Grade, Site #4, and Site #8. Project sites are located in Plumas and Sierra Counties in the northern portion of the Sierraville Ranger District of Tahoe National Forest (TNF) approximately 2-miles north of Calpine, California

Posted: March 12, 2020
The Carman Watershed Restoration Project Phase 2 monitoring report summarizes pre-project (baseline) and construction monitoring for the Phase 2 project sites under California Department of Fish and Wildlife Watershed Restoration Grant Program Agreement #P1796015. Phase 2 project sites include Site #1 Folchi Meadows, Site #2 Folchi Meadows Railroad Grade, Site #4 Carman Creek, and Site #8 Carman Creek. Project sites are located in Plumas and Sierra Counties in the northern portion of the Sierraville Ranger District of Tahoe National Forest (TNF) approximately 2-miles north of Calpine, California. Approximately 375-acres of severely degraded meadow and stream channels were restored during Summer 2019.

Posted: January 26, 2020
Stream restoration efforts, particularly within meadow systems, increasingly rely on 'pond and plug' type methods in which (a) alluvial materials are excavated from the floodplain, forming ponds; (b) excavated alluvial materials are used to plug incised channels and (c) smaller dimension channels are restored to the floodplain surface. A commonly stated objective of these efforts is to restore ecologically significant hydrological processes to degraded riparian systems. However, little research has been conducted to evaluate and quantify the restoration of these hydrological processes. Direct comparisons of pre- and post-restoration hydrological observations are often misleading due to an inter-annual climatic variability. To overcome this issue and accurately quantify the hydrological effects of restoration, we developed, calibrated and validated a hydrological model of a 230 ha mountain meadow along a 3.6 km restored reach of Bear Creek in the northeastern California. We then applied the model to simulate the pre- and post-restoration scenarios by altering the floodplain topography and stream channel networks. Our results document three general hydrological responses to the meadow restoration effort: (1) increased groundwater levels and volume of subsurface storage; (2) increased frequency/duration of floodplain inundation and decreased magnitude of flood peaks and (3) decreased annual runoff and duration of baseflow. This study supports and quantifies the hypothesis that 'pond and plug' type stream restoration projects have the capacity to re-establish hydrological processes necessary to sustain riparian systems. In addition, the results of this study can be used to improve quantitative objectives for 'pond and plug' type stream restoration activities in similar settings. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Posted: January 26, 2020
Meadows of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains of California, USA, support diverse and highly productive wet-meadow vegetation dominated by sedges, rushes, grasses, and other herbaceous species. These groundwater-dependent ecosystems rely on the persistence of a shallow water table throughout the dry summer. Case studies of Bear Creek, Last Chance, and Tuolumne meadow ecosystems are used to create a conceptual framework describing groundwater-ecosystem connections in this environment. The water requirements for wet-meadow vegetation at each site are represented as a water-table-depth hydrograph; however, these hydrographs were found to vary among sites. Causes of this variation include ( 1) differences in soil texture, which govern capillary effects and availability of vadose water and ( 2) elevation-controlled differences in climate that affect the phenology of the vegetation. The field observations show that spatial variation of water-table depth exerts strong control on vegetation composition and spatial patterning. Groundwater-flow modeling demonstrates that lower hydraulic-conductivity meadow sediments, higher groundwater-inflow rates, and a higher ratio of lateral to basal-groundwater inflow all encourage the persistence of a high water table and wet-meadow vegetation, particularly at the margin of the meadow, even in cases with moderate stream incision.

Posted: January 26, 2020
We present a new algorithm for mapping evapotranspiration (ET) that requires only local weather-station data including the ground beat flux and high resolution airborne thermal imagery. This ET mapping algorithm (ETMA) is based on the surface energy budget and partitions the available energy between the latent and sensible heat fluxes. Two parameters T-latent and T-sensible are defined as the surface temperatures at which all of the turbulent heat flux is accounted for by the latent and sensible heat fluxes, respectively. These points are used to develop linear relationships between surface temperature and ET at specified times. Maps of ET at two times during the day are then used to model and integrate the diurnal pattern of ET using the Penman-Montieth and Jarvis-Stewart models of ET and surface resistance. The resulting maps of daily integrated ET have 1-m spatial resolution that is rarely available, yet important to the fields of hydrology, ecology, forestry, and agriculture. Our results comparing ET values to porometry-based local measurements within the meadows suggest that the mapped ETday values are accurate to within 10% of the potential ET rate or within 0.7 mm absolute error; however, under different conditions the error may be larger. The purpose of developing this algorithm was to investigate the hydroecology of restored and degraded meadows in the Sierra Nevada of northern California, USA. The pond-and-plug method of riparian restoration aims to raise the water table and re-establish native mesic vegetation that has been replaced by sagebrush and dryland species due to land-use practices over the past 150 years. By comparing the ET regime of two restored and two degraded meadows, we show that daily ET in the restored meadows (5-6.5 mm/day) was approximately twice that of the degraded ones (1.5-4 mm/day). The detailed images of ET show local impacts of land-use change and re-vegetation efforts.

Posted: January 26, 2020
Stream incision is altering the hydroecology of riparian areas worldwide. In the Last Chance watershed in the northern Sierra Nevada, California, logging, overgrazing, and road/ railroad construction have caused stream incision, which resulted in drainage of riparian meadow sediments and a succession from native wet meadow vegetation to sagebrush and dryland grasses. Restoration efforts have been initiated to reestablish the ecosystem function of these systems. Original field data including stream stage records, water table hydrographs, sediment hydraulic properties, topographic transects, and aerial imagery of vegetation patterning were used to develop a model of an archetype meadow. Hydrologic behavior was simulated with a finite element model of variably saturated groundwater flow. This model was coupled to an empirical, time-dependent, vegetation threshold relationship between vegetation type and depth to the water table. This was a two-way coupling requiring an iterative approach because water table depth is a determinant of vegetation type, yet the vegetation regime influences water table depth through evapotranspiration. The hydrology and vegetation patterns were analyzed under pristine, degraded (incised), and restored conditions. For the case of deep streambed incision, our hydroecological model predicts the observed shift from mesic (wetter) to xeric (drier) vegetation communities and reproduces their imaged longitudinal zonation. This patterning is explained as a response to groundwater drainage to the stream, which creates dry zones with xeric vegetation adjacent to the stream, while preserving sufficient moisture at the margins of the meadow to support holdout populations of mesic vegetation. The model further predicts the reestablishment of meadow vegetation when the incised channel is filled and a new shallow channel is restored. The coupling of a near-surface hydrologic model to a vegetation response model may be used to design stream restoration projects by predicting vegetation patterning.

Posted: January 26, 2020
We discuss a recent paper which evaluated the hydrologic changes resulting from a pond-and-plug meadow restoration project in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. In the study, measurements of streamflow into and out of the meadow suggested late-summer baseflow increased as much as five-fold when compared with prerestoration conditions. However, the volume of streamflow attributed to the restored meadow (49,000–96,000 m3 over four months) would require that 2.5–4.8 m of saturated meadow soils drain during sum- mer months. The groundwater data from this meadow record only 0.45 m of change over this timeframe, which is less than might be expected from plant use alone (0.75 m), suggesting this restored meadow may be acting as a water sink throughout summer rather than a source.

Posted: January 26, 2020
In mountains of the western United States, channel incision has drawn down the water table across thousands of square kilometers of meadow floodplain. Here climate change is resulting in earlier melt and reduced snowpack and water resource managers are responding by investing in meadow restoration to increase springtime storage and summer flows. The record‐setting California drought (2012–2015) provided an opportunity to evaluate this strategy under the warmer and drier conditions expected to impact mountain water supplies. In 2012, 0.1 km2 of meadow floodplain was reconnected by filling an incised channel through Indian Valley in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Despite sustained drought conditions after restoration, summer baseflow from the meadow increased 5–12 times. Before restoration, the total summer outflow from the meadow was 5% more than the total summer inflow. After restoration, total summer outflow from the meadow was between 35% and 95% more than total summer inflow. In the worst year of the drought (2015), when inflow to the meadow ceased for at least one month, summer baseflow was at least five times greater than before restoration. Groundwater levels also rose at four out of five sites near the stream channel. Filling the incised channel and reconnecting the meadow floodplain increased water availability and streamflow, despite unprecedented drought conditions.

Posted: January 26, 2020
Restoration of degraded wet meadows found on upland valley floors has been proposed to achieve a range of ecological benefits, including augmenting late‐season streamflow. There are, however, few field and modelling studies documenting hydrologic changes following restoration that can be used to validate this expectation, and published changes in groundwater levels and streamflow following restoration are inconclusive. Here, we assess the streamflow benefit that can be obtained by wet‐meadow restoration using a physically based quantitative analysis. This framework employs a 1‐dimensional linearized Boussinesq equation with a superimposed solution for changes in storage due to groundwater upwelling and evapotranspiration, calculated explicitly using the White method. The model and assumptions gave rise to predictions in good agreement with field data from the Middle Fork John Day watershed in Oregon, USA. While raising channel beds can increase total water storage via increases in water table elevation in upland valley bottoms, the contributions of both lateral and longitudinal drainage from restored floodplains to late‐summer streamflow were found to be undetectably small, while losses in streamflow due to greater transpiration, lower hydraulic gradients, and less laterally drainable pore volume were likely to be substantial. Although late‐summer streamflow increases should not be expected as a direct result of wet‐meadow restoration, these approaches offer benefits for improving the quality and health of riparian and meadow vegetation that would warrant considering such measures, even at the cost of increased water demand and reduced streamflow.

Posted: October 23, 2019
This is the user guide for the Sierra Meadow Prioritization Tool and contains metadata associated with the tool database.

Posted: May 28, 2019
The purpose of this handbook is to demonstrate how climate change considerations can be integrated into planning and design for Sierra meadow restoration projects and provide recommendations of best management practices to ensure restored meadows are resilient to climate change. Our approach combines a traditional climate change vulnerability assessment with Point Blue’s climate-smart restoration principles to describe both the potential vulnerabilities that climate change poses to achieving restoration goals as well as specific restoration and management actions that can help address and reduce identified vulnerabilities.

Posted: May 9, 2019
The wetlands of the Sierra Nevada were formed and are maintained by a feedback between soil, plant, and hydrologic processes. Primary production of plants builds soil organic matter and plant roots bind soil, preventing erosion during flooding. In turn, soil organic matter retains water and nutrients that support plant growth, while the hydrologic regime regulates soil organic matter decomposition, plant community makeup, and plant production. The relative stability of these interacting processes has built thick meadow soils over the past several thousand years. However, modern human impacts such as livestock grazing and water extraction have decoupled the interacting processes. Removal of plants by grazers exposes soil to water erosion and reduces production, the source of soil organic matter. Erosion gully formation and direct water extraction lower the wetland water table, speeding soil organic matter decomposition, altering plant community composition, and reducing production. Gully formation and loss of soil organic matter occur rapidly but are extremely slow to reverse by natural processes alone. Wetlands that have experienced these impacts enter alternative stable states that will not quickly return to their original configurations. In these cases, ecological restoration is necessary to repair human impacts and reestablish the stabilizing feedback of soil, plant, and hydrologic processes. This dissertation is composed of five chapters that explore wetland ecosystem function and restoration in the Sierra Nevada.

Posted: April 10, 2019
We investigated the historical use and long-term efficacy of hand-built check dams to repair eroded meadows of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI) to inform the design for restoring a large erosion gully in Cahoon Meadow, SEKI. Archive documents show that, for 34 years from 1948 to 1981, a summer-seasonal team of SEKI employees, the Soil and Moisture Conservation Crew (S&MCC), built and maintained check dams in 20 back country meadows and 1 front country meadow, and their erosion control efforts were requested, but never implemented, at an additional 33 meadows. S&MCC activities were focused on mitigating the impacts of grazing that occurred from ~1870 to 1985. The two meadows with the longest grazing history, Williams and Sugarloaf, were consistently rated as high priorities for erosion-control and received the most S&MCC check dam work. In 2015 we conducted field investigations in these two meadows, relocating as many dams as possible to determine how effective they were at accumulating sediment after 30 years of maintenance followed by 35 years with no work. We found 41 S&MCC check dams, 35 in Sugarloaf and 6 in Williams, and measured their channel dimensions, slope, sediment accumulation, and functionality. All but 2 of the dams were non-functional, retaining no water, and even dams in small, shallow sloping channels had failed. The maximum sediment accumulation depth was 1.2 meters, just upstream of a dam built in 1948, in a gully that had been 2.5 meters deep. On average, the sediment depth accumulated behind dams was 26% of the former gully depth. Nowhere did enough sediment accumulate behind a dam to fill in the local gully and restore the original level topography of the meadow. Although 30+ years of dam building and maintenance succeeded in locally depositing sediment to about a quarter of the eroded gully depth, the gully in Cahoon Meadow is deeper and wider than any of the dammed sections of either Williams or Sugarloaf Meadows. Wider, taller structures would be required in Cahoon’s gully and these would be significantly more difficult to design, build, and maintain than the S&MCC dams and require 100 years or more to accumulate enough sediment to completely restore original topography.

Posted: April 10, 2019
Adding chipped wood to soil ameliorates compaction, allowing faster plant growth that is critical to successful wetland restorations. Following the filling and planting of an erosion gully in Halstead Meadow, Sequoia National Park, the tallest leaf height and maximum clone width of transplanted Scirpus microcarpus seedlings were negatively correlated with soil compaction. Plant height decreased by 9.8 cm and width decreased by 11.9 cm per MPa of soil compaction (range of 0.74–4.50MPa). We experimentally amended mineral soil in a test trench and found that every 0.10 cm3/cm3 addition of wood chips (range of 0.00–0.75 cm3/cm3) reduced compaction by 0.174MPa. Had the Halstead Meadow gully fill contained an equivalent volume of wood chips to the reference area soil organic matter content (0.64 cm3/cm3), we predict compaction would have been reduced by 1.11MPa, increasing individual transplant width spread by 36%, approximately doubling the vegetated area after two growing seasons. In a greenhouse phytometer experiment, conifer bark leachate (phenolics 211 mg/L) significantly reduced plant growth and, in the presence of added nutrients, increased the production of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO). However, phenolics concentration in bark-free conifer wood leachate (12mg/L), similar to field-sampled concentrations, did not affect plant growth or PPO production. Pure conifer bark is not recommended as a soil amendment, but the addition of low-bark-content wood chips to gully fill may be a feasible and effective means of reducing soil compaction, accelerating plant establishment, and lowering wetland restoration project costs.

Posted: March 7, 2018
Between 2014 and 2017, American Rivers was funded by NFWF to use the scorecard in the Carson River basin to guide investment and accelerate the pace of restoration. We assessed every accessible meadow in the watershed that is larger than 15 acres, 28 meadows in all. We identified six priority meadows and established a Carson meadows work group to pursue restoration of these six sites.

Posted: March 7, 2018
Between 2014 and 2017, American Rivers was funded by NFWF to use the meadow scorecard in the Middle Truckee River Basin to focus investment and accelerate the pace of restoration. We assessed every accessible meadow in the watershed that is larger than 15 acres, 30 in all. We prioritized these meadows for restoration with a working group comprised of local stakeholders who are actively and strategically pursing restoration in the watershed. We identified 6 priority meadows in the Middle Truckee River watershed.

Posted: November 15, 2017
Between 2013 and 2015, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited were funded by NFWF to use the meadow scorecard in the Walker basin to guide investment and accelerate the pace of restoration. We identified five priority meadows and established the Walker Working Group to pursue restoration of these five sites. The purpose of this Walker Basin Meadows Condition Report is twofold. First, it provides condition data and explains why the Walker Working Group chose the first set of meadows as the top priority for restoration. Second, the working group will use information presented here to plan subsequent restoration efforts once the first group of meadows is restored.