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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)

Ecology, Management and Restoration of Great Basin Meadow Ecosystems

Project Title

Ecology, Management and Restoration of Great Basin Meadow Ecosystems


The Great Basin Ecosystem Management (EM) Project uses an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to increase understanding of the effects of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance on riparian areas, and to elucidate the connections among watershed and channel processes, hydrologic regimes and riparian ecosystem dynamics. The EM Project is unique in that it addressed temporal scales ranging from the mid-Holocene to the present and spatial scales ranging from entire watersheds to localized stream reaches. The Projectís process based and multi-scale approach is used to develop guidelines and methods for maintaining and restoring sustainable riparian ecosystems. The current emphasis of the project is on maintaining a long-term monitoring effort on precipitation and water tables in key riparian ecosystems In the central Great Basin, meadow complexes, or areas with shallow water tables that are dominated largely by grasses and carices, are at especially high risk of degradation because they often occur in hydrologic and geomorphic settings that are susceptible to stream incision. Stream incision usually results in a drop in the base level for groundwater discharge and, consequently, deeper water tables. Because riparian vegetation depends on elevated water tables, major changes in the structure and composition of meadow ecosystems are occurring. For example, encroachment of upland shrubs and trees has resulted in a net loss of meadow vegetation. This project is examining (1) the factors affecting the sensitivity or, conversely, resistance of streams and their associated meadow complexes to stream incision, and (2) the underlying geomorphic, hydrologic and biotic processes related to meadow degradation. It is using this process based understanding to develop management and treatment options for these important ecosystems. Focal areas of the project include:

  • evaluate the geomorphic and hydrologic controls on Great Basin meadow complexes;
  • examine the geomorphic, hydrologic and vegetation processes that affect watershed and meadow sustainability;
  • provide information on the factors needed to evaluate sensitivity to disturbance for both watersheds and meadow complexes;
  • evaluate the value of biodiversity indicators for aquatic and terrestrial macro-invertebrates for evaluating restoration outcomes and ecological conditions of meadows and their associated stream systems;
  • develop a characterization of meadow complexes that exist within central Great Basin watersheds based on watershed and valley segment/reach scale attributes;
  • provide methods for maintaining or restoring the stream systems and vegetation communities associated with riparian meadows.

Selected Publications

GSD Principal Investigators

Chambers, Jeanne C    Research Ecologist    775-784-5329
Board, David    Ecologist/Data Analyst    775-784-5329

Cooperators and Sponsors


  • Dru Germanoski, Lafayette College
  • Dave Jewett, Environmental Protection Agency, Ada, OK
  • Mark Lord, Western Carolina University
  • Jerry Miller, Western Carolina University
  • Peter Weisberg, University of Nevada, Reno


  • Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
  • Nevada Department of Wildlife