Identifying Ecological Patterns and Processes in Montane Meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range

Identifying Ecological Patterns and Processes in Montane Meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range

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Montane meadows serve a unique role in forested landscapes as areas of high biodiversity that also provide forage and water for domestic and wild grazing animals. This research examined meadow ecosystems located in the Sierra Nevada Range, California, USA. I examined the ecological patterns and processes impacting montane meadows through three primary approaches. First, I classified dominant meadow plant communities and determined environmental variables that influenced these classifications across 17 meadows on the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests. I identified five dominant plant community types and linked vegetation distribution to water table levels and elevation using classification and ordination techniques. Secondly, I used digital cameras to examine livestock and deer presence in meadows and to determine the impact of four meadow fencing treatments on animal distribution. Through the use of digital cameras placed across 10 meadows on the Sierra National Forest, I showed that overall cattle presence in the study meadows was low throughout the summer grazing season and that fencing treatments significantly affected cattle and deer distribution within each meadow. In particular, partial meadow fencing concentrated cattle into smaller areas outside fences, while deer were more likely to be present within fenced areas. Thirdly, I explored relationships among species richness, biomass, and other environmental variables and quantified differences in cattle utilization across fencing treatments. This analysis again included 17 meadows, and I confirmed a correlation between species richness and biomass. I also emphasized the importance of adding additional environmental variables when considering the relationship between species richness and biomass. Including mean water table depth increased the variance explained in a multiple linear regression model from 66% to 81%. In addition to the digital camera data, I confirmed overall low biomass utilization levels by cattle among all treatments over three years. This study contributes not only a better understanding of meadow dynamics, but does so in the context of considering and addressing the effects of management decisions on meadow ecosystems.ESRI ArcMap Version 9.2. Redlands, CA, USA. Fernandez-Gimenez and B.H. ... Journal of Range Management 10: 175-177. Hickman, J.C. (Editor) 1993. The Jepson Manual-Higher Plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Title:Identifying Ecological Patterns and Processes in Montane Meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008


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