SYRCL, in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, is wrapping up the planning phase and moving toward restoration implementation on 229 acres of meadow habitat within five high priority meadows in the North Yuba Watershed: Haskell Headwaters Fen, Chapman Saddle Meadow, West Church Meadow, Freeman Meadow, and Bear trap Meadow.
Haskell Headwaters Fen, Chapman Saddle Meadow, West Church Meadow, Freeman Meadow, and Bear trap Meadow are vulnerable to climate change because of their sub-alpine elevation; the ecosystem processes of these headwater wetlands rely heavily on snowpack. Meadows are important ecosystems for sequestering carbon, serve as habitat for threatened native species, and act as a “water bank” holding snow water as it melts and slowly releasing it through the summer. As temperatures rise and the precipitation regime shifts from snow dominant to rain dominant, the resiliency of these ecosystems is increasingly threatened. Existing habitat degradation in these meadows was initially caused by a variety of historic human impacts. This degradation is expected to get worse due to the impacts of climate change. Specifically, stream channels at these three sites are currently incised, and increased precipitation in the form of rain will increase erosion, further degrading and incising these channels.
These sub-alpine environments support headwater streams and contain highly valuable meadow and fen habitats; thus, it is especially important to promote resiliency of these environments with restoration actions. The objective of our restoration efforts in these five meadows is to reconnect stream channels with their floodplain which will slow surface water flows and promote water storage. Our restoration efforts will support the following ecosystem benefits:
- increased groundwater recharge,
- increased stream flows later into the summer,
- increased capacity for long-term carbon storage and
- increased habitat for aquatic species.
Restoration actions will help restore the ecosystem helping threatened wildlife within the meadows by increasing the resiliency of the ecosystem against future climate impacts and the threat of increasing degradation. From a watershed scale perspective, the improvement of degraded meadows throughout the North Yuba River watershed increases the capacity of the watershed to hold water and sequester carbon. At a larger scale, this project, combined with other projects SYRCL is doing, will increase the availability of functioning meadow patches across the Yuba River watershed to support wildlife as continued habitat for foraging, breeding, and rearing.
Based on preliminary assessments of each of the five project meadows, SYRCL plans to use an ecological-process-based approach to restoration, integrating tools such as beaver dam analogues to assist the system in aggradation and floodplain reconnection. Aggradation is the process of sediment accrual that naturally occurs in healthy meadows via slow flowing waters that deposit sediment. Beaver dam analogues are manmade structures that mimic beaver dams. These low-impact tools have proven to be effective at promoting floodplain connectivity and complexity, increasing habitat heterogeneity, and increasing ecological resilience (Pollock et al. 2017).
SYRCL and the TNF are in the final stages of the planning phase of this project and are looking toward implementation in late summer of 2023. The planning phase included the development of watershed assessments and restoration designs, permitting, and baseline monitoring. Baseline monitoring as part of a long-term monitoring plan is an important part of the greater restoration project because it will allow SYRCL and partners to document the effects of restoration actions based on reliable data. In 2020, SYRCL began conducting conifer transects, vegetation transects, and groundwater and surface water monitoring at all five meadows in the Haskell Peak Restoration Project. We look forward to using this data to inform our current and future projects.
For more information, please contact:
Alecia Weisman, River Science Program Manager
(530) 265-5961 ext. 224