Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Meadows

 Title

Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Meadows    

Project Overview

Meadows play a critical role in creating a resilient forest ecosystem, acting as ‘islands’ rich in diversity and rare species that are dispersed within the forest matrix. Meadows are important for wildlife, providing resources for food gathering, nesting, and courtship displays. Wet meadows also provide important ecosystem services including filtering sediment, mitigating extreme flood events, and helping to recharge groundwater.

“Meadows—ecosystems that can be defined as open areas dominated by herbaceous species—make up a small percentage of the landscape, but provide a disproportionately high level of ecological, hydrological, and cultural values compared to other ecosystem types.”

The occurrence and persistence of meadows is dependent, in whole or in part, on the hydrology that supports the soil and vegetation characteristics that define them. For example, in certain areas, tree establishment is kept in check in wet meadows due to the saturation of the soil. Changes in hydrology could lead to opportunities for tree establishment, potentially threatening the very existence of particular meadows. Research shows that climate change in the Pacific Northwest is expected to lead to changes in hydrology. However, we know relatively little about how climatic changes and subsequent hydrological changes will impact meadows in the region, their functioning, and the values they can support in the future. This lack of knowledge is partly due to lack of comprehensive data on these meadow systems.

The goal of this project is to develop remotely sensed and modeled data that can allow us to assess observed trends in meadows over the last three decades, and based on past dynamics, make projections of future trends using climate change projections. Our methodology leverages the USGS Landsat satellite archive (1984 – present) to create time series detailing seasonal and long-term changes for individual meadows. We use this rich dataset to understand historical changes such as tree encroachment, to understand changes in meadow greenness, and to make meadow-specific projections under climate change.

Application/Intended End-users

The products resulting from the current analysis will be used to help the Yakama Nation staff and partners better understand climate change impacts on the meadows of their Reservation that they manage, and focus restoration actions where they will contribute most to maintaining the ecological and cultural values of meadows into the future.

Datasets and Products

Brief (1-2 page) progress reports will be provided on a quarterly basis, associated with regular calls of the management advisors group. A final report will summarize results of methods that were used and provide recommendations for next steps.

Key Personnel

  • Se-Yeun Lee, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington (Principal Investigator)
  • Joe Casola , Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington (Principal Investigator)
  • Meghan Halabisky, Conservation Science Partners (Co- Principal Investigator)
  • Sonia Hall, Conservation Science Partners (Co- Principal Investigator)

Funders & Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Yakama Nation.

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