Jim Wilcox

Jim Wilcox

Jim Wilcox, USA

Presentation Title:Restoring Ecosystem Services in the Sierra Nevada, California

Evidence of human habitation has reached every corner of the globe, and montane valley ecosystems have been one of the last places to become inhabited.  Prior to manipulation for human use, these ecosystems provided services such as seasonal water retention and release from vernally inundated meadows and valleys, providing productive habitats for diverse wildlife species.  With the advent of human habitation, most montane meadows in the western United States have undergone some degree of hydrologic degradation from channel incision (mostly due to transportation corridors and deliberate channel modification).  These features have resulted in an on-going, run-away xeric trend that compromises the functionality of these systems to deliver ecosystem services. Meadow floodplains that once benefited water quality by filtering overland flow from uplands now are a source of water quality impairment from eroding stream-banks.  Meadow soils that once sequestered carbon are now carbon emitters with the loss of soil moisture.  Plumas Corporation, a small non-profit, has been at the forefront of restoring stream channel and meadow floodplain functionality in the Sierra Nevada mountains throughout California for almost 30 years.  Developing partnerships with local and regional NGOs, public agencies and individuals has resulted in scores of projects implemented in river basins north to south in the Sierra Nevada.  Data from project and river system monitoring show that restoration of montane meadow ecosystems is a good investment to regain the necessary services that these ecosystems provide.  Data from our projects show:  improved seasonal retention and release of ground water that provides a buffer to downstream flows in years of drought, attenuated peak flood flows, sequestered carbon, and improved water quality and wildlife habitat.  However, not all project areas respond in the same way.  Data collection and improved restoration and monitoring techniques continue to evolve as our project areas and partnerships expand.

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