Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 287–296 | Cite as

Plant community distribution along water table and grazing gradients in montane meadows of the Sierra Nevada Range (California, USA)

  • S. K. McIlroyEmail author
  • B. H. Allen-Diaz
Original Paper


This study aimed to identify dominant plant communities across five wet and mesic meadows in the Sierra Nevada Range (California, USA) and examine the impacts of environmental and grazing gradients on plant community distribution and diversity. Species composition and environmental conditions were recorded in 100 plots over two years. Classification and ordination analyses were used to classify plant communities and identify relationships between community types and both environmental and grazing gradients. We identified the following six plant community types: Carex jonesii, Carex leporinella, Carex nebrascensis, Carex utriculata, Eleocharis pauciflora, and Veratrum californicum. We found strong connections between plant communities and water table variables, with low water table (r 2 = 0.56) and mean water table (r 2 = 0.30) significantly correlated with Axis 1 while high water table (r 2 = 0.29) and elevation were correlated with Axis 3 (r 2 = 0.49). We found significant differences among community types for all three water table variables and for elevation. We found no correlation between grazing and community type classification, but there was a significant difference in grazing levels among community types. The plant communities and relationships to water table found in this work may aid managers in understanding present conditions and identifying future changes in meadow ecosystems.


Community types Livestock utilization Plant-water interactions Species diversity Wet and mesic 



We thank Ling He, Ann Huber, Tim Doherty, Jason Kreitler, Leslie Roche, Norah Saarman, and John Lorenzano for assistance in the field. The United States Forest Service, Region 5 funded this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and ManagementUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterSnake River Field StationBoiseUSA

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