Meadows in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges act as nature’s sponge and filter, accumulating high amounts of organic soils that help provide California with a year-round water supply. Acting like a mini-reservoir, the meadows store carbon as they capture and clean water.
Sadly, damage from poor land use practices over the last century are compromising the meadows’ ability to provide these critical functions. Some meadow streams have transformed into gullies that quickly move water through and off, leaving the meadows high and dry. The meadows often suffer further degradation as they lose soil and vegetation. For downstream residents and users, this means increased winter flooding, poor water quality and a reduced amount of water available during drier times of the year.
That’s why the Sierra Meadows Restoration Partnership formed as a coalition of groups interested in restoring California’s damaged mountain meadows. The group then sought support from the DFW’s Wetlands and Watershed Restoration Program, funded by Cap-and-Trade dollars. Now the partnership is using those funds to restore more than 700 acres of degraded mountain meadows in the Sierra Nevada-Cascade mountains system.
“Mountain meadows, in healthy conditions, are high carbon-sinks and provide an array of important benefits of supporting plants, animals, fish and downstream communities, as well as supporting a more water-secure California,” says Mark Drew of California Trout Inc. “Unfortunately, roughly 50 percent of these meadows are in a degraded state. The provision of California Climate Investments grants from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore some mountain meadows to healthy conditions was well-timed for an urgent need to bring back these important ecosystems.”
The Sierra Meadows Restoration Partnership, Yosemite National Park and University of California, Davis are collaborating on the projects. The restorations not only improve the conditions of some meadows in the Sierra Nevada-Cascade, it also is estimated to sequester over 52,000 MTCO2e, while making California more resilient to climate change.
Under healthy conditions, the mountain meadows will also improve flood protection, increase the meadow’s ability to clean and store water for longer into the drier season, improve wildlife habitat, and create recreational/education opportunities for the benefit of all.