Clover Valley meadow in bloom

Meadows

High elevation meadows are among the most unique and valuable habitat in the Sierra Nevada region, providing a disproportionate number of ecosystem services compared to the area they cover. The Sierra Fund’s focus on meadows aims to increase the pace and scale of meadow restoration in the Sierra Nevada to the benefit of communities and ecosystems.

“Prior to the 19th century Gold Rush, the Sierra Nevada was inhabited by the indigenous communities who had established hunting grounds on the hillsides surrounding wet mountain meadows for thousands of years. With the colonization of California and the beginning of domestic livestock grazing, European immigrants capitalized on the value of the lush open spaces, displacing the First Nation People. Today, scientists and ecologists strive to restore the function and resiliency of meadow ecosystems.”

Alex Keeble-Toll, M.A., M.Sc., Administrative Director

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Background

Historic accounts of the impacts of overgrazing place them in equal proportion to mining impacts. Millions of livestock overgrazed the region, creating meadows that cease to function as water quality and water management basins as they had prior to European contact.


Healthy montane meadows are among the most unique and valuable green infrastructure in the Sierra Nevada, providing a disproportionate number of ecosystem services compared to the area they cover. Meadows are hotspots for biodiversity, providing significant services including flood attenuation, sediment filtration, water storage, water quality improvement, carbon sequestration, and livestock forage.

The Sierra Fund’s Vision for healthy, hydrologically functional Sierra Nevada meadows

The Sierra Fund’s work aims to enhance the regenerative capacity of meadows to perform their stabilizing functions in the face of climate change using Process-Based Restoration (PBR). Watersheds with hydrologically functional meadows have been found to deliver substantial cold water runoff later in the year making these areas key climate refugia for wildlife that rely on aquatic ecosystems and riparian vegetation and improving water availability, reliability, and quantity for downstream communities.

Meadow restoration not only improves wildlife habitat and refuge in a changing climate, it also has significant carbon sequestration benefits. Restored meadows have the ability to sequester and store carbon in their rich soils. The Sierra Fund is working to quantify the benefits of increased carbon sequestration in restored meadows to develop new financial mechanisms to restore meadows.

Key to this approach is engaging the First Nations of the Sierra, on whose ancestral homelands projects are planned, so that meaningful actions that work to restore ecosystem resiliency are executed in tandem with efforts to support community resiliency.