Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1926
Date of Award
MS in Forestry Sciences
Agricultural Education and Communication
Meadows are crucial components to larger river watersheds because of their unique hydrologic and ecological functions. Due to climate change, over grazing, and fire suppression, conifer encroachment into meadows has accelerated. In some western regions, nearly half of all meadow habitat has been loss due to conifer encroachment. Restoration of these hydrologic systems requires tree removal. Many studies exist that address the issue of conifer encroachment in montane meadows, however, few studies focus on the role that conifer removal plays on the encroaching meadow. Furthermore, few studies exist that document the hydrologic change from conifer removal and further restoration steps, if any, to take after the removal. The overall research goal is to understand the efficacy of removal of encroached conifers from an encroached meadow (Marian Meadow) for successful meadow restoration. The objectives of this study are to determine (i) quantify the meadow hydrology following removal of encroached conifers, (ii) determine if forest tree removal adjacent to the meadow influences the meadow’s hydrology, and (iii) test three common revegetation techniques for a formerly encroached montane meadow.. Marian Meadow is in Plumas County, CA at an elevation of 4,900 feet. This 45-acre meadow enhancement project is part of a 2,046-acre timber harvest plan implemented by the Collins Pine Company. Soil moisture sensors at one foot below the ground and water table depth sensors at four feet below ground were installed in Marian Meadow and a control meadow in September 2013, with additional soil moisture sensors at three-foot depth installed August 2015. The removal of encroaching conifers from Marian Meadow occurred in June 2015. Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) was used to determine maximum water table depths and climatic variables were measured from a weather station as inputs for the water budget. A groundwater recession curve equation was used to model water table depths between water table depth sensor measurements and ERT measurements. A general linear model was used to determine any statistical significant difference in soil moisture and water table depths prior to and after conifer removal. Revegetation plots were installed at the start of the 2017 growing season to determine the establishment rate for three different techniques (BARE, WOOD, and EXISTING) and three different species of meadow plant. Technique BARE, which removes approximately 10 cm of top soil and disperses seed was statistically significant, yielding the highest population count. Another growing season data collection and control plot is required to draw further conclusions and recommendations. The water balance indicated that the majority of Marian Meadow and the Control Meadow’s water storage can be attributed to precipitation and not upland sources. This hydrologic characteristic is common in dry meadows. The statistical analysis indicated that measured water table depths increased on average by 0.62 feet following conifer removal. The first year following restoration and the second year following restoration yielded statistically significantly different water levels than pre-restoration water levels. The third year following restoration is inconclusive until the end of the 2018 WY data set is available. On average, soil moisture increased by 6.43% following conifer removal and was statistically significantly different in all three post restoration years when compared to pre-restoration volumetric soil moisture content. Additionally, growing season (April through September) water table depths indicated that meadow vegetation communities could be supported in Marian Meadow following conifer removal. The removal of conifers from an encroached meadow appears to promote soil moisture and water table depth conditions indicative of a meadow and meadow plant community types.