A Guide to Climate-Smart Meadow Restoration in the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades

This handbook was designed to support climate-smart meadow restoration projects in the mountain meadows of northern California. The report offers guidance on incorporating climate change impacts into a meadow vulnerability assessment, and adaptive measures into restoration planning and design. The report describes how to conduct a vulnerability assessment, and how to apply Point Blue’s climate-smart restoration principles to address those vulnerabilities with adaptation measures. The guide describes desired meadow restoration outcomes, climate projections for the Sierra Nevada region, and includes a summary of a climate vulnerability assessment for four riparian meadow restoration projects in the northern Sierra and southern Cascades. The recommended approaches and best management practices in this handbook can help practitioners increase the probability of climate resilience of restored meadows, and can be useful in planning for ecological climate resilience in other regions.

According to the report, about half of the Sierra Nevada meadows are already degraded by land use, and are now facing increasingly severe climate impacts. Swift conservation action is needed as these rare ecosystems provide vital functions, including carbon storage, groundwater recharge, flood attenuation, water quality improvement, and habitat for a diversity of species, including many of conservation concern.

The first section describes the four steps of a climate vulnerability assessment process that can be used to identify how desired meadow restoration outcomes may be vulnerable to climate change impacts:

  1. Define objectives and desired outcomes
  2. Gather relevant data
  3. Assess climate vulnerabilities in the context of desired outcomes
  4. Use results to identify climate-smart restoration actions and adaptation approaches

Appendix A includes a project planning worksheet to guide your own climate vulnerability assessment - utilizing the four steps described in this section. 

Point Blue has identified the following priority meadow restoration outcomes - which are further detailed in the report:

  • Functional Meadow Hydrology. The meadow exhibits hydrologic connectivity both laterally across the floodplain and vertically between surface and subsurface flows, contributing to groundwater recharge, late season stream flow, high water table, and attenuation and delay of peak flows.
  • Good Water Quality. The meadow contributes to good water quality characterized by streams with low sediment outputs, low turbidity, and cool temperatures.
  • Healthy Meadow Soil. The meadow features productive, healthy soil characterized by high levels of soil organic matter that have a high water holding capacity and net carbon sequestration.
  • Meadow Plant Species. The meadow’s hydrologic regime and forage utilization supports native meadow graminoid species and, where ecologically appropriate, riparian shrubs and trees of diverse age classes.
  • Meadow Wildlife. The meadow supports diverse native terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, including birds, amphibians, and fish, that depend on meadows for some or all portions of their life cycle.
  • Resilience and Adaptive Capacity. The meadow is resilient to and recovers from natural and human disturbances.

A climate vulnerability assessment for four riparian meadow restoration projects in the northern Sierra and southern Cascades is summarized in Section II. This section includes a comprehensive list of climate vulnerabilities and suggested restoration actions associated with each desired restoration outcome.

Some additional climate-smart best management practices that practitioners can use to inform meadow restoration projects are described in Section III.  And, Appendix B: Vulnerabilities to Meadow Restoration Outcomes lists climate vulnerabilities associated with each of the desired meadow restoration outcomes. Appendix C: Climate-Smart Actions to Address Vulnerabilities offers Point Blue’s climate-smart principles and examples of associated climate-smart actions linked to desired meadow outcomes.


Publication Date: May 2019

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide
  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


  • Air temperature
  • Drought
  • Precipitation changes

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