Mountain meadows inhabited by beavers have an important role in mitigating climate change. As carbon sinks, they store remarkably large amounts of greenhouse gases for the long term. However, degradation from livestock grazing and conversion to dry grasslands has greatly diminished the carbon-storing capacity and biodiversity of meadows in the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada of California.
Launched in 2015, this experiment is designed to test whether artificial and natural beaver dams are effective meadow restoration tools for reducing climate-warming gases and increasing biodiversity. Beaver dams increase carbon storage by trapping sediment high in carbon and raising the water table, which expands the growth of riparian and aquatic vegetation.
The research sites are on Nature Conservancy land within Childs Meadow, near Lassen Volcanic National Park. The 290-acre meadow is one of the few remaining strongholds for the highly imperiled Cascades frog and willow flycatcher.
The project tests the effects of two meadow restoration treatments on carbon sequestration, hydrology and sensitive species — one section of meadow with the mock beaver dams and the other without the structures. Treatments include cattle exclosure. Results will be compared with measurements in an unrestored section of the meadow.