This summer, Friends of the Inyo’s seasonal crews will delve into a new kind of stewardship: scientific data collection. In partnership with CalTrout’s Sierra Headwaters Region, we’ll monitor greenhouse gas emissions from three meadows on the Sequoia National Forest to determine the relative rates of carbon sequestration in degraded vs. restored meadows.
Meadows cover only 1.7% of the Sierra Nevada range1, but their soils may contain up to 30% of the region’s organic carbon stocks2. When meadows are degraded, preliminary research shows they transform from net sinks to net sources of carbon3. Functioning meadows sequester carbon at six times the rate that degraded meadows lose carbon3, but only 30-40% of Sierra Nevada meadows are functioning properly4. In other words, meadows are losing a lot of carbon that they could be sequestering if they were restored to a more functional state.
To sample emissions, our technicians will position PVC rings along predetermined sampling grids within each meadow. Each ring will be fitted with a cap to seal in its emissions. Technicians will then race against the clock, using a syringe to collect vials of gas from each PVC ring at carefully timed intervals. If you think of a meadow as a living organism with all the functions of a body, it’s almost as though we’ll be measuring its breath. This video gives a glimpse of the process in the field.
We can’t wait to visit our study meadows every three weeks from May through November, watching as the wildflowers bloom and fade away, the grasses turn from green to brown, and the snow melts and then returns. We’re also thrilled to help CalTrout with this important work, part of a region-wide effort to quantify the long-term benefits of meadow restoration.
Visit CalTrout’s website to learn more about the Sierra Meadows Partnership and their crucial work to protect our watersheds.
1UC Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences & USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, 2017. Sierra Nevada Multi-Source Meadow Polygons Compilation (v 2.0), Vallejo, CA, Regional Office: USDA Forest Service. 2017. http://meadows.ucdavis.edu/<https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmeadows.ucdavis.edu%2F&data=01%7C01%7Cbsullivan%40cabnr.unr.edu%7C539c878aaca14d86827b08d57fc0b822%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd31d8%7C1&sdata=VwZnWr216%2FG7X%2BkOmXaQbujBKu02M2Qc7ji95qtx%2B0c%3D&reserved=0>
2Norton, J.B., Jungst, L.J., Norton, U., Olsen, H.R., Tate, K.W. and Horwath, W.R., 2011. Soil carbon and nitrogen storage in upper montane riparian meadows. Ecosystems, 14(8), pp.1217-1231.
3Reed, C.C., Drew, M., Hart, S.C., Keszey L., Merrill A.M., Swanson S., Sullivan, B.W. 2018. From sink to source: disconnection of floodplain hydrology makes Sierra Nevada meadows net C sources to the atmosphere. Manuscript in preparation for submission to peer reviewed journal.
4National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 2010. Sierra Nevada meadow restoration business plan. https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfwf.org%2Fsierranevada%2FDocuments%2FSierra_Meadow_Restoration_business_plan.pdf&data=01%7C01%7Cbsullivan%40cabnr.unr.edu%7C539c878aaca14d86827b08d57fc0b822%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd31d8%7C1&sdata=a%2BGDA1OWG0NE9Se3C1cGycYNFVJmGMBhkAhvqNBkr4Q%3D&reserved=0>www.nfwf.org/sierranevada/Documents/Sierra_Meadow_Restoration_business_plan.pdf<http://www.nfwf.org/sierranevada/Documents/Sierra_Meadow_Restoration_business_plan.pdf