Intermountain Region (R4)

Headwater Meadow Restoration in the Sierra Nevada: Adapting to Climate Change

Description

Contributor(s): 
Julie Fair and Luke Hunt, American Rivers
Project process and implementation: 

As noted above, the four sites included in this project were chosen for their mid-elevation location and because they had been identified as priority sites for restoration for their ecological value. In general, American Rivers takes a five step approach to meadow restoration projects: 1) Assessment and Design, 2) Environmental Compliance and Permitting, 3) Implementation, and 4) Adaptive Management and Monitoring. Specific details of the process and implementation of each site are included below.

In Hope Valley, a 2007 watershed assessment by MACTec Consulting identified the upper reach of the meadow as incised and unstable. In 2011, project partners hired design consultants to evaluate restoration options and develop concepts. These concepts were reviewed by a technical advisory committee of stakeholders, with the Forest Service as the ultimate decision maker.  Restoration designs were completed in 2014 and the partners pursued funding for restoration.  During the fundraising effort, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) requested that the project team extend the restoration boundaries downstream onto CDFW-owned land.  Designs were completed for this extended reach, and the project became a multi-agency partnership, with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), CA Wildlife Conservation Board and Wildlife Conservation Society as primary implementation funders. NFWF and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy funded the design and permitting phases.

China Camp Meadow is important sage-grouse habitat, and meadow restoration efforts were aimed at improving this habitat. The project used rock grade controls to improve stream channel slope and elevation, and controlled burning to encourage native vegetation growth. The project was completed in 2015.

In 2005, grazing permittees identified a moderate headcut at the lower end of Shell Meadow that was threatening to erode through the meadow. Since that time, the headcut has grown many times in size and has begun to move upstream. The site is breeding habitat for Yosemite toad. Headcut stabilization was scheduled for 2013, but the Rim Fire and subsequent Endangered Species Act listing of the Yosemite toad caused delays.  The project will be completed in 2015.

The Forest Service identified a constructed ditch that concentrates flow and drains groundwater from Elliot Meadow for restoration in 2007. Trees have grown up adjacent to the ditch, some 24 inches in diameter and more. In 2015, project partners will restore the site by removing the trees, filling the ditch with material from offsite, and grading the berms flat to restore natural surface flow. Invasive Klamath weed will be treated with releases of Klamath weed beetle.

The roles of project partners are as follows:

  • American Rivers: Write and manage grants and subcontracts, convene stakeholders, apply for permits for Hope Valley, manage Hope Valley, project specific monitoring.
  • Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest: Review and approve designs, complete NEPA, oversee construction in the field for Hope Valley.  Design and construction in China Camp.
  • Stanislaus National Forest: Design, NEPA permits, construction and monitoring
  • Tahoe National Forest : Design, NEPA and construction oversight in Elliot meadow.

Additional partners for Hope Valley include:

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Approved funding through Wildlife Conservation Board. Approved designs for CDFW-owned lands. Consulted on designs for restoration.
  • Alpine Watershed Group and Friends of Hope Valley: Outreach to stakeholders, flow monitoring, coordinate volunteer plantings.
  • Institute for Bird Populations Avian monitoring, consult on designs from a migratory bird perspective
  • Trout Unlimited: Aquatic monitoring, consult on designs from a fish perspective
  • Waterways Consulting: Site assessment, project designs, oversee construction in Hope Valley

American Rivers, The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Waterways Consulting worked closely throughout the design review and permitting process.

Project Outcomes: 

The overall goal of this project is to increase resiliency of headwaters regions through the protection and restoration of mountain meadows.Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Implementation of four on-the-ground restoration meadow restoration projects in headwater regions in the Sierra Nevada. This will result in improved hydrologic processes on 400 acres in four meadows across four watersheds, and will help to lessen the effects of reduced snowpack due to climate change.
  • 4,500 feet of stream habitat enhanced for fish and wildlife, enhancing climate adaptability for a range of species including the following sensitive species: willow flycatcher (Endangered), Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Candidate sp.), Yosemite toad (Candidate sp.) and sage grouse (ESA candidate species)
  • Enhancement of the benefits healthy meadows provide including: increased groundwater storage capacity, reduced peak flows, prolonged summer base flows, reduced in-stream water temperatures, and reduced sedimentation downstream.
  • Outreach to key stakeholders regarding meadow restoration tools, processes and incorporating climate change science in meadow restoration.

Learning Objectives: 

Partnerships can greatly accelerate the pace of restoration, especially in landscapes with active stakeholders. This is an example of a federal/state partnership that is working; however, a critical element is a non-government partner intent on involving stakeholders and able to efficiently contract for consulting and construction assistance.

Plant Species and Climate Profile Predictions

Overview

Maps of forest species-climate profiles were developed to help predict how forests, plant communities, and species may change on the landscape in response to climate change. Each species map depicts a ‘viability score’, which is an index on the interval zero to one that indicates how consistent the climate at a location is with the contemporary occurrence of a species. A low score at a given point in time or space indicates that the species does not occur (or very rarely occurs) in climates like those depicted at that location.

Summary: 

These maps provide information on where suitable future climate may be located for specific tree species under different climate scenarios.

Coupling snowpack and groundwater dynamics to interpret historical streamflow trends in the western United States

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
Oregon State University
Principal Investigator(s): 
Gordon Grant, Mohammad Safeeq
Summary: 

A key challenge for resource and land managers is predicting the consequences of climate warming on streamflow and water resources. Over the last century in the western US, significant reductions in snowpack and earlier snowmelt have led to an increase in the fraction of annual streamflow during winter, and a decline in the summer. This study explores the relative roles of snowpack accumulation and melt, and landscape characteristics or 'drainage efficiency', in influencing streamflow. An analysis of streamflow during 1950-2010 for 81 watersheds across the western US indicates that summer streamflows in watersheds that drain slowly from deep groundwater and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. During the spring, however, watersheds that drain rapidly and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. Our results indicate that not all trends in the western US are associated with changes in snowpack dynamics; we observe declining streamflow in late fall and winter in rain-dominated watersheds as well. These empirical findings have implications for how streamflow sensitivity to warming is interpreted across broad regions.

Project Abstract: 

See more below

Project Status: 
Complete
Research Results: 

Coupling snowpack and groundwater dynamics to interpret historical stream flow trends in the western United States - http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg/pubs/13_Safeeqetal_HP.pdf

Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/23/2014

Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
UC Santa Barbara, US Geological Survey
Principal Investigator(s): 
Gordon Grant, Naomi Tague, Craig Allen
Summary: 

Water stress represents a common mechanism for many of the primary disturbances affecting forests, and forest management needs to explicitly address the very large physiological demands that vegetation has for water. This study demonstrates how state-of-science ecohydrologic models can be used to explore how different management strategies might improve forest health.

Project Abstract: 

Widespread threats to forests due to drought stress prompt re-thinking of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, we argue that maintaining forest health in the face of environmental change may require focusing on the forests themselves and strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress in the context of a changing climate. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include: a) thinning; 2) encouraging drought-tolerant species; 3) irrigation; and 4) strategies that make more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forest lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve tradeoffs with other downstream uses of water.

Project Status: 
Complete
Research Results: 

Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes - http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg/pubs/13_Granteal_WFFT.pdf

Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/23/2014

Forestry, Bioenergy, Greenhouse Gas and Land Use Economic and Biophysical Model Development and Analysis

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon State University
Principal Investigator(s): 
Greg Latta
Summary: 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Economics Branch (CEB) analyzes cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in the U.S. and internationally. EPA relies on the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gas (FASOM-GHG) model for analysis of GHG mitigation from the U.S. forest, agriculture and bioenergy sectors. This project will involve model development, results interpretation, testing, analyses, and documentation associated with the forestry and bioenergy sectors and related land use in the FASOM-GHG. The overarching objectives of the project are to make the forest sector portion more flexible, able to simulate a broader range of alternative bioenergy and CO2 sequestration policies, and to simplify the basic model code to reduce compilation and run time.

Project Abstract: 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Economics Branch (CEB) analyzes cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in the U.S. and internationally. EPA relies on the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gas (FASOM-GHG) model for analysis of GHG mitigation from the U.S. forest, agriculture and bioenergy sectors. The model is developed and maintained by the FASOM-GHG team, with expert members at Texas A&M University, Oregon State University, the Nicholas Institute at Duke University, Research Triangle Institute, Electric Power Research Institute, Environmental Protection Agency, USDA and the U.S. Forest Service.

Project Status: 
Action
Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/16/2014

CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC)

Overview & Applicability

The CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC) provides quantitative data on carbon dioxide sequestration and building heating/cooling energy effects provided by individual trees. CTCC outputs can be used to estimate GHG (greenhouse gas) benefits for existing trees or to forecast future benefits. The CTCC is programmed in an Excel spreadsheet and provides carbon-related information for trees located in one of sixteen United States climate zones.

Summary: 

This Carbon Calculator provides quantitative data on carbon dioxide sequestration and building heating/cooling energy effects provided by individual trees.

National Climate Change Viewer

Overview & Applicability

The National Climate Change Viewer allows users to visualize projected changes in climate (maximum and minimum air temperature and precipitation) and the water balance (snow water equivalent, runoff, soil water storage and evaporative deficit) for any state, county and USGS Hydrologic Units (HUC) in the continental United States. USGS HUCs are hierarchical units associated with watersheds and analogous to states and counties that span multistate areas. HUC levels 2, 4 and 8 are used in the viewer.

Summary: 

This viewer allows users to visualize past and projected changes in climate and the water balance for any state, county and USGS Hydrologic Unit.

Our Forests, Our Solutions: How Climate Change Affects Forests

Storyboard from the video

Climate change means changes for the nation's forests. This introductory video describes some of the changes that are occurring and that are expected as the planet warms.

Presenter: 
The Climate Change Resource Center
Publication date: 
07/25/2014
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