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Title: Charcterization of meadow ecosystems based on watershed and valley segment/reach scale characteristics [chapter 7]

Author: Trowbridge, Wendy; Chambers, Jeanne C.; Germanoski, Dru; Lord, Mark L.; Miller, Jerry R.; Jewett, David G.

Date: 2011

Source: In: Chambers, Jeanne C.; Miller, Jerry R., eds. Geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology of Great Basin meadow complexes - implications for management and restoration. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-258. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 95-112.

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: Great Basin riparian meadows are highly sensitive to both natural and anthropogenic disturbance. As detailed in earlier chapters, streams in the central Great Basin have a natural tendency to incise due to their geomorphic history (Miller and others 2001, 2004). Anthropogenic disturbances, including overgrazing by livestock, mining activities, and roads in the valley bottoms, have increased both the rate and magnitude of incision (Miller and others 2004; Chambers and Miller 2004). Stream incision within meadow ecosystems alters channel structure and function and causes a decrease in the water table adjacent to the stream. Because meadow vegetation is closely related to groundwater depth (Allen-Diaz 1991; Castelli and others 2000; Chambers and others 2004a; Naumburg and others 2005; Dwire and others 2006; Loheide and Gorelick 2007), stream incision can result in changes in species composition and, following catastrophic incision, loss of the meadow ecosystem (Wright and Chambers 2002; Chambers and others 2004b). Wet and mesic meadow communities are particularly sensitive to lowered water tables (Castelli and others 2000) and typically decrease in extent following a drop in the water table. Decreases in groundwater levels also can lead to encroachment of upland vegetation and, ultimately, to conversion to Artemisia (sagebrush) dominated communities (Groeneveld and Or 1994; Wright and Chambers 2002; Darrouzet-Nardi and others 2006). Other disturbances such as small mammal burrowing (Berlow and others 2002) or overgrazing by livestock (Wright and Chambers 2002) can accelerate shrub encroachment. Once water tables have been lowered, the ecological potential to support a given meadow vegetation type changes and alternative management strategies must be considered (Chambers and Linnerooth 2001; Wright and Chambers 2002). An understanding of the vulnerability of different types of meadows to incision is necessary to prioritize restoration and management efforts.

Keywords: riparian areas, wetlands, semi-arid ecosystems, degradation, stream incision, stabilization

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Trowbridge, Wendy; Chambers, Jeanne C.; Germanoski, Dru; Lord, Mark L.; Miller, Jerry R.; Jewett, David G. 2011. Charcterization of meadow ecosystems based on watershed and valley segment/reach scale characteristics [chapter 7]. In: Chambers, Jeanne C.; Miller, Jerry R., eds. Geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology of Great Basin meadow complexes - implications for management and restoration. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-258. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 95-112.

 


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