The Value of Meadows

Meadows are an integral, and often overlooked, part of our mountain ecosystems. In the face of current and impending extreme climate shifts, meadows display astounding resilience. They provide key habitat for the Klamath region’s unique biodiversity, keep downstream waters cool throughout the summer, and store tremendous amounts of carbon, not to mention their deep cultural significance for indigenous communities in the region. Despite their importance to healthy montane ecosystems, much is still unknown about their presence on the landscape. Through collaborative research efforts, the Klamath Meadows Partnership aims to increase the recognition of meadows for continued research and public understanding in order to more adequately protect these vital oases. Read on to learn more about some of the unique values of meadows in the Klamath region.


Meadows act as oases, providing year-round refuge for the region's immense biodiversity. Species like the Pacific Tree Frog, the Southern Long-Toed Salamander, and the Cascades Frog all rely on meadows for year-round breeding habitat. Rare, endemic plant species, such as the California Pitcher Plant, California Lady's Slipper, and Showy Raillardella, thrive in healthy meadows. Grasses, sedges, and shrubs flourish year-round to provide food and habitat for deer, birds, and small mammals.

Cold Water Storage

Meadows provide an increasingly vital service of storing cold water from snowmelt throughout the hot summer months. This cold water is stored underground and slowly metered out to rivers downstream, allowing for - among other things - salmon to continue to thrive in the region's rivers. With the area facing its third critically dry year of drought, this is habitat is becoming all the more important to restore and protect.

Carbon Storage

Although vastly understudied, meadows have an exceptional capacity for storing carbon underground via healthy bunchgrass and soil systems. One study conducted in the Sierra Nevada Mountains found that one acre of meadow can store as much as 6x the carbon as an acre of forest! Further, a preliminary study conducted by the University of Nevada Reno found that restored meadows can store anywhere from 20-80% more carbon than degraded sites, demonstrating the vast need and potential for healthy meadow systems to combat climate change.

Cultural Significance

The Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Shasta, Modoc, and Wiyot peoples hold ancestral territory within the greater Klamath region and continue to use, steward, and inhabit its lands. Meadows play a vital role in the indigenous culture and livelihoods, providing food and fiber sources, forage for key species, and natural fire breaks for cultural burning.

Fire Resilience

A healthy, connected network of meadows across a landscape can act as natural firebreaks, slowing the movement and decreasing the intensity of wildfires. Additionally, because meadows slowly disperse water throughout the summer, during peak fire season, they can have an outsized impact on fire behavior across an entire landscape.


Meadows are a serene, beautiful place to hike, backpack, birdwatch, and relax. They provide stunning wildflower shows late into the season, and alpine meadows in the Klamath are set amongst some of the most unique geologic features in California. The healthier meadows are, the more beautiful they become!