Why Meadows Matter

Restoring Sierra meadows can help combat the effects of climate change.

60% of California's water originates in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Sierra meadows cover less than 2% of the overall sierra-Cascade landscape, but they are biological hotspots that sustain the headwaters of several major California water sources.

As the climate warms and scientists project more rain and less snowfall in these mountain ranges, Sierra meadows will become an increasingly important resource for water storage. However, of the roughly 190,000 acres of Sierra meadows, an estimated 40-60% (~90,000 acres) have been degraded due primarily to human activity.

Restoring meadows increases ecological resilience in the face of a changing climate, including frequency variations in rainfall and large-scale forest fires.


Science into Action

CalTrout is studying and restoring Sierra meadows in order to reap the natural benefits of healthy source water meadows, including:
Greenhouse Gas Reduction. Healthy meadows are net carbon sinks while degraded meadows are net carbon emitters. Degraded meadows have dry soil which can be decomposed by microbes, resulting in the production of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Wet meadow plants like sedges and rushes act as carbon sinks by absorbing more carbon than sage brush and other dry meadow vegetation types.

Improved Water Security. Like the mountain snowpack that Californians depend on for year-round water, healthy meadows store water like a sponge and release it gradually. This function improves water supply security by keeping more water in the system acting as a natural reservoir to carry water through into the dry season when it is needed most by fish and people.

Sierra Meadow Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan (WRAMP). This tool will provide standardized monitoring protocols that are needed by land managers to determine restoration needs, evaluate restoration efficacy, and inform adaptive management actions.

Sierra Meadows Partnership. CalTrout and its partners have created the Sierra Meadows Partnership to work together to elevate and coordinate meadow restoration. The Partnership’s overarching goal is to restore 30,000 acres of the estimated 90,000 acres of degraded meadows over the next 15 years. Learn more about the partnership here.


Explore more ways California Trout employs science-based solutions to ensure a resilient future for our fish, water, and people.

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