Thesis

Assessing restoration success for a wet montane Sierra Nevada meadow

Meadows in the Sierra Nevada are characterized as wet, heterogeneous habitats with diverse plant communities, often being biodiversity hot spots. These meadows not only provide resources for wildlife but also filter and store snowmelt, providing sustained water sources for both wildlife and Californians. Recognition of meadow significance combined with persistent human disturbance motivates restoration efforts to improve hydrologic connections and biotic health within these meadows. This research is evaluating the trajectory of a restored montane meadow in Sierra Nevada, California. Comparing soil moisture, plant community composition, and exotic species extent of this restored meadow to disturbed and less disturbed meadows provided context for this assessment. Results indicated soil moisture was highest in the restored meadow followed by the disturbed then less-disturbed sites. After further investigation, the less-disturbed sites were found to have significantly less total annual precipitation which greatly impacted overall plant composition. As such, the less-disturbed sites were deemed inappropriate for comparison and the restored sites trajectory assessment was thus more focused on comparisons to the disturbed sites. The restored site was found to have lower moisture heterogeneity but higher hydrologic connectivity compared to the disturbed sites, traits more definitive of wet montane meadows. Species richness, status, plant type, and wetland classifications at the restored site were also more definitive of wet montane meadows compared to the disturbed sites. However, the restored site did have concerning areas of exotic species, especially in drier soils. Currently, rewetting techniques applied appear to be successful. Although, it is clear that adaptive management is needed to address issues of concern and help keep a continued positive ecological trajectory at this restored site, especially when heading into an uncertain future.

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