Dynamics of Climate, Phenology, and Productivity Across a Hydrologic Gradient in a Montane Meadow
In the Sierra Nevada, restoration of degraded montane meadows has the potential to increase water availability, improving meadow productivity and resilience against climate change. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of water availability on growing season timing and duration in a montane meadow ecosystem undergoing restoration. Plant productivity, water availability, and environmental variables were examined at several scales along a hydrologic gradient in Red Clover Valley, California. Field data were collected from May-August 2021, and NDGI was used to compare years 2018-2021. Analysis of the 2021 growing season indicates that environmental controls vary by plant group, with community changes occurring throughout the season. In 2021, a year of severe drought, VPD limited productivity, even with higher water availability and the growing season was shorter, earlier, with lower peak productivity. Results highlight controls on meadow vegetation and establishes a baseline of productivity metrics useful for comparison and ongoing monitoring efforts.