Tuolumne Meadow Installation of Meadow Monitoring Equipment for Ecological Restoration
To answer these research questions the following field methods will be employed over three years:
• Continue monitoring of groundwater levels in the well network that has existed in Tuolumne Meadows since 2006.
• Measure sediment deposition around 24 individual willows by placing three clay pads (30cm x 30cm x 2 cm), sediment discs (4" diameter), and scour chains at the six associated willow study sites in the Tuolumne River corridor.
• Quantify the carbon budget at 10 sites using a temporarily placed C flux chamber (50 cm x 50 cm x 40 cm) set on fixed PVC 'collars' and monumented with two pieces of rebar.
• Collect 4-inch diameter soil samples (0.5 liter volume) at 10 sites at depths of 10 and 30 cm.
• Clip vascular plants at the soil surface in 10 plots (0.5 m2 each) per meadow each year.
• Install 10 in-growth root bags each spring into 10 plots.
• Install 30 small mammal herbivory exclosures at 10 sites (associated with wells) by burying wire mesh on a vertical orientation at a ~20 to 40 cm depths around plots of ~2 meters square; 20 of these wire exclosures (with a flat black color) will be raised 10 cm above and encapsulate the meadow surface.
• Seed and plant seedlings of two sedges (Carex subnigricans) and (Carex scopulorum); seed lodgepole pine.
• Collect willow seeds with 30 sticky traps (8" x 11" plywood boards covered weekly with Tanglefoot during the observed period of seed rain) at six sites; traps are to be mounted approximately 0.5 meter above the ground surface, with a hardware cloth covering them to prevent incidental capture of birds and small animals.
• Plant dormant willow stem cuttings, each 18 inches long, into a full range of bare sandbar habitats/elevations; approximately of the cuttings will be within twelve exclosures (commercial black deer fence, 7 m x 7 m x 1.5 m height); fencing will be removed for the winter, but t-posts will remain.
Installed equipment will be signed identifying it as research material. The researchers will present details of the project to Tuolumne NPS interpretive staff in order that they are better able to inform the public of the investigation activities.
This project will explore different restoration scenarios at Tuolumne Meadows. Research that has been underway in recent years has demonstrated that soil thickness, soil moisture retention characteristics, and soil forming processes play a critical role in determining meadow vegetation's vulnerability to hydrologic change and it's amenability to restoration. However, before a restoration strategy can be implemented, a process based understanding of the interactions between vegetation condition and soil maintenance and formation must be developed and better characterized in the system so processes that inhibit and encourage meadow recovery can be identified.