Full of images of cows being boated from one field to another during the April floods, we thought we might see robust and tall wetland grasses and sedges under water on the Silvies floodplain wet meadows in response to more water that stayed on the meadows for 10 days to two weeks. Instead, the grasses, sedges and clover seemed to be a bit shorter and thinner than in the previous two years.
As we stood looking out at the meadow, swatting away mosquitoes, it was hard to imagine that the same place had been under water for weeks, just a few months ago. Wandering the site with the landowner, he pointed out the upper watershed sources of rainwater and snow melt that had flooded his meadows. He also shared his thoughts on the amounts of sand, silt and sediment that might have been added to his fields. We all began to wonder if next year we will see changes in the plant species, density and heights in response to the added water and substrate.
This year’s survey was year six of a project to build a stronger understanding of the ecology of wet meadow ecosystems in relation to water regimes, especially changeable water regimes. We are building an information base and using tools to help both public and private land managers assure wet meadow conditions can be maintained for spring migratory waterbirds that depend on the habitat.
At the end of the day, we all smiled, grateful that we have six years of plant inventory data and observations on how plant communities, land managers and bird species respond to and adapt to changing water conditions.
-Esther Lev, Executive Director, The Wetlands Conservancy