Most of California’s water and much of its energy supply originates with the rain and snow that fall in the Sierra Nevada. Changing climate patterns, fire and human activities are putting increasing pressure on this critical ecosystem. Center scientists use a combination of riverscape ecology, watershed science, hydroinformatics, and spatial modeling to improve decision making and management of California's Sierra Nevada watersheds. The Sierra Nevada Strategies group examines three primary areas of research:
Hydrological connectivity is a critical component of maintaining ecosystem function. Research projects examine longitudinal, lateral, and vertical dimensions, from mountain meadows to alluvial floodplains.
A persistent challenge in watershed science is bridging scales, from empirical observations obtained from extensive fieldwork to broad spatial models generated by geographic information systems and hydroclimatic models. Center research projects strive to integrate results across several scales to broaden applicability, reduce uncertainty, and inform management and policy through strong inference.
Most of the Sierra's rivers are regulated (i.e., have dams and diversions). Research projects compare and contrast the ecology and management potential of regulated rivers with managed releases and unregulated rivers with natural flow regimes.