Effects of Meadow Erosion and Restoration on Groundwater Storage and Baseflow in National Forests in the Sierra Nevada

USDA Forest Service, et al., June 19, 2015. Meadows in the Sierra Nevada maintain summer groundwater levels at or near the land surface in an otherwise seasonally dry montane landscape. Their role in retaining and releasing water makes meadows critically important for the hydrology of California’s headwaters as well as for fish and wildlife habitat, cultural resources, forage production, wildfire fuel loading, and recreation.

Many of the meadows in the Sierra Nevada have been eroded by incised channels, also known as entrenched channels or gullies. Channel incision increases local groundwater flow gradients and, consequently, groundwater discharge from meadow aquifers to streams. This enhanced groundwater drainage results in lower water-table elevations, decreased groundwater retention, and conversion of wet meadows to forested or brush-covered alluvial flats.

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