Sierra Nevada Meadows Protection

Interns with the Student Conservation Association hand-pull dandelions (Taraxacum officinal) in Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, alongside NPS staff. Photo: Michael Diehl

Sierra Nevada meadows are valued for their ecosystem functions, regulating water storage and flow, and providing important wildlife habitat. Invasive plants can significantly alter vegetation communities, degrade wildlife habitat, and potentially reduce water storage and carbon sequestration functions. Our project improves understanding of these impacts and strengthens capacity to effectively address the threat.

The primary activity of this project is characterizing the level of threat in Sierra meadows from invasive plants through development of a “vulnerability index” based on current infestations of invasive plants and projected future infestations. The index is based on the current locations of invasive plant species, known vectors of spread, modeling of future climatic suitability (for those species we have modeled), and habitat preferences. Local experts knowledgeable about meadows in their area are a key component of vulnerability index development. The vulnerability index provides a foundation for prioritizing management of invasive plants in or near meadows, and will also provide information on the utility and cost of the assessment process so that decisions can be made about proceeding with assessment of additional meadows.

Two secondary elements included in this project are to (1) develop research designs on the impacts of invasive plants on Sierra meadow hydrology, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat and (2) develop Best Management Practices for reducing the spread of weeds during meadow restoration to ensure that post-restoration benefits are not lost over time due to inadvertent weed spread.

Plants being managed

Start date

2015

Location

Sierra Nevada mountain range

Resources protected

Native vegetation communities, wildlife habitat, and water storage and carbon sequestration functions.

Project goal

Design a system to prioritize Sierra meadows for invasive plant management; develop BMPs to prevent weed spread during meadow restoration; and develop research designs to better understand invasive plant impacts on Sierra meadows.

Project photos

An infested landscape shows the scale of the problem. Agricultural Biologist Technician Jana Rapetti stands in a sea of tall whitetop (Lepidium latifolium) in Alpine County that she helped clear. Photo: Jessica Honeycutt
An infested landscape shows the scale of the problem. Agricultural Biologist Technician Jana Rapetti stands in a sea of tall whitetop (Lepidium latifolium) in Alpine County that she helped clear. Photo: Jessica Honeycutt
Tall whitetop (Lepidium latifolium): The weed that tried to win the West. Deputy Agricultural Biologist, LeeAnne Mila, works along Highway 50, a prime noxious weed nursery corridor, in El Dorado County. Photo: Jessica Honeycutt
Keeping Grover Hot Springs, a California State Park, native. Agricultural Biologist Technicians work to thwart Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) upstarts in Alpine County. Photo: Jessica Honeycutt
Keeping Grover Hot Springs, a California State Park, native. Agricultural Biologist Technicians work to thwart Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) upstarts in Alpine County. Photo: Jessica Honeycutt
Before and After treatment of velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) along Kern River, Golden Trout Wilderness. Photo: Rich Thiel
Before and After treatment of velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) along Kern River, Golden Trout Wilderness. Photo: Rich Thiel
Volunteers and work crews remove velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) near Tower Rock, Kern Canyon in Sequoia National Park. Photo: Rich Thiel
Volunteers and work crews remove velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) near Tower Rock, Kern Canyon in Sequoia National Park. Photo: Rich Thiel