Restoring Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Restoring Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Help scientists to understand how human activities have altered meadows in the Sierra Nevada and how these changes will impact their response to a changing climate.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains capture rain and snow, making water available throughout the year.

As human activities alter meadow ecosystems, meadow hydrology and vegetation suffers as stream channels degrade, releasing water earlier in the year, and conifer trees encroach within meadows, absorbing a greater supply of water than the natural vegetation.

In 2015, the snowpack that blanketed the Sierra Nevada was the lowest recorded in the past 500 years, largely due to increased temperatures and a decrease in precipitation in the region. Protecting Sierra Nevada meadows that act like natural reservoirs, absorbing and filtering melting snowpack and rainwater, is critical, particularly in a state experiencing the worst drought in recorded history.

Meadows in the Sierra Nevada function like sponges, collecting and storing water.

Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains capture rain and snow, making water available throughout the year.

In a healthy meadow, the edges are lined with conifers and only a small percentage of them have aspen stands. As human activities change the landscape, however, conifers – trees that outcompete aspens for water and sunlight – have begun to encroach into the meadow and within aspen stands. Aspen are important to the overall biodiversity of the Sierra because they support a unique assemblage of plant species.

Help research teams to discover how these changes are impacting plants, trees, and water levels in meadows by evaluating aspen stands, monitoring encroaching conifers, and surveying groundwater and stream channels. Over time, this work will help scientists to understand how restoration actions impact meadows. You’ll also support meadow restoration projects, such as removing conifers from meadow fringes.

By studying and helping to protect these important ecosystems, home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, you’ll be supporting one of the most important water systems in California.

About the research area

Tahoe National Forest, California, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:



The Scientists


River Science Director, South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL)

ABOUT Rachel Hutchinson

Rachel Hutchinson is the River Science Director at the South Yuba River Citizens League and works primarily in riparian ecosystems as a vegetation ecologist. Rachel’s research interests have focused on the response of riparian and wetland plant communities to restoration or changes in hydrologic regime. She applies this research by using the results of these studies to understand how specific changes to management or environmental conditions result in improvements in habitat and ecosystem services on a watershed scale.


Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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