Montane meadows in the Sierra Nevada: comparing terrestrial and aquatic assessment methods

TitleMontane meadows in the Sierra Nevada: comparing terrestrial and aquatic assessment methods
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsPurdy, S. E., Moyle P. B., & Tate K. W.
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Date Published11/2012
Keywordsfish, Invertebrates, Meadows, Rapid habitat assessment, Stream channel condition, Vegetation, Wetlands
AbstractWe surveyed montane meadows in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades for two field seasons to compare commonly used aquatic and terrestrial-based assessments of meadow condition. We surveyed (1) fish, (2) reptiles, (3) amphibians, (4) aquatic macroinvertebrates, (5) stream geomorphology, (6) physical habitat, and (7) terrestrial vegetation in 79 meadows between the elevations of 1,000 and 3,000 m. From the results of those surveys, we calculated five multi-metric indices based on methods commonly used by researchers and land management agencies. The five indices consisted of (1) fish only, (2) native fish and amphibians, (3) macroinvertebrates, (4) physical habitat, and (5) vegetation. We compared the results of the five indices and found that there were significant differences in the outcomes of the five indices. We found positive correlations between the vegetation index and the physical habitat index, the invertebrate index and the physical habitat index, and the two fish-based indices, but there were significant differences between indices in both range and means. We concluded that the five indices provided very different interpretations of the condition in a given meadow. While our assessment of meadow condition changed based on which index was used, each provided an assessment of different components important to the overall condition of a meadow system. Utilizing a multimetric approach that accounts for both terrestrial and aquatic habitats provides the best means to accurately assess meadow condition, particularly given the disproportionate importance of these systems in the Sierra Nevada landscape.