Peter A. Palmiotto, D.F.

Core Faculty
Department of Environmental Studies

New England Mountain Ecology

Mt Moosilauke ; 4810′

The spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests on Mt. Moosilauke and at the Hubbard Brook Forest Experimental Station in New Hampshire have been ideal sites to study forest species populations dynamics. The established datasets at these sites provide the critical baseline data upon which ecosystem level questions and questions that ask ‘what if’ can be built. The ongoing population level studies examine the development of the current forests and aim to predict their future composition (Peart and Palmiotto, 1990; Peart, 1991; Peart, 1992, Landis and Peart 2005.).

Permanent research plots I helped establish in 1986-87 and remeasured in 1998 and 2010 in collaboration with Professor David Peart at Dartmouth College provides an insite into Mt Moosilauke’s forested ecosystem. Analysis and publications that will come out in the next few years will add substantially to our understanding of the dynamics of the growth and development of the spruce-fir forest and provide solid data to model community dynamics.


Mount Monadnock 3165′

My research on Monadnock with the MERE project was inspired simply by asking what if all the red spruce on the mountain died due to climate change. With MS candidate David Mallard we established permanent research plots to following the changes in the forest communities into the future. David will use the data collected in the summer of 2007 to describe the distribution and health of forest communities in relation to elevation, aspect and soils above 2000 feet.

In the summer of 2008 understory and herbaceous plants will be assessed in the the permanently marked plots thus completing the vegetation description of the mountain. Future ecological studies may include studying the distribution and diversity of lichen and moss species, describing the age structure of the spruce communities, examining the nutrient cycling of the ecosystem and the role of the fauna within the forests.

The information collected will be used specifically to develop educational programs that engage the general public, especially the 100,000 visitors that hike the mountain annually. These programs will bring the ecology of the mountain and the effects of climate change on its ecosystems to the public through talks, scientific and popular articles and educational displays at the park headquarters and along trails and possibly other educational avenues as time, resources and interest permit.

This effort is part of a large project called the Monadnock Ecological Research and Education Project (MERE)which aims to inform the public about the effect of climate change on local plant communities.

This project has the endorsement and cooperation of The Society for the Protection of NH Forests, the State of NH ; Monadnock State Park, and the Monadnock Advisory Commission. Insurance coverage, permits, and appropriate permissions have been secured through Antioch University New England.

Monitoring, interpreting, and communicating natural community changes to Monadnock’s visitors are the goals of this educational initiative. Changes on Mt Monadnock will alert us to potential changes in the forests before they are evident elsewhere in the region. Thus, Mt Monadnock will effectively serve as an indicator of the effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems throughout the Northeast.

A broad educational effort such as this is a necessary step to reach the wide range of consumers who can make a difference in the struggle to thwart climate change. Education must be targeted to all demographic sectors and be available in places where people will be able to actively absorb and understand the message.