Plant community distribution along water table and grazing gradients in montane meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range (California, USA)

Research paper by S. K. McIlroy, B. H. Allen-Diaz

Indexed on: 28 Mar '12Published on: 28 Mar '12Published in: Wetlands Ecology and Management


This study aimed to identify dominant plant communities across five wet and mesic meadows in the Sierra Nevada Range (California, USA) and examine the impacts of environmental and grazing gradients on plant community distribution and diversity. Species composition and environmental conditions were recorded in 100 plots over two years. Classification and ordination analyses were used to classify plant communities and identify relationships between community types and both environmental and grazing gradients. We identified the following six plant community types: Carex jonesii, Carex leporinella, Carex nebrascensis, Carex utriculata, Eleocharis pauciflora, and Veratrum californicum. We found strong connections between plant communities and water table variables, with low water table (r2 = 0.56) and mean water table (r2 = 0.30) significantly correlated with Axis 1 while high water table (r2 = 0.29) and elevation were correlated with Axis 3 (r2 = 0.49). We found significant differences among community types for all three water table variables and for elevation. We found no correlation between grazing and community type classification, but there was a significant difference in grazing levels among community types. The plant communities and relationships to water table found in this work may aid managers in understanding present conditions and identifying future changes in meadow ecosystems.