A treeless summit rises up from the landscape, glistening silver on a sunny day. For residents of Jaffrey, Marlborough, Keene, Dublin, and other southwestern New Hampshire towns, Mount Monadnock stands alone as a prominent peak. Its dramatic presence has impressed and captivated local people for centuries, inspiring an abundance of folklore, art, music, and writing. The mountain draws affection from outside the region, too. Relatively small and easy to summit, at 3,165 feet, Monadnock is the popular hiking destination for over 95,000 visitors each year. That tally places Mount Monadnock as the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji.
In addition to having aesthetic, recreational, and economic importance, Mount Monadnock is ecologically diverse. The Mountain’s steep altitudinal grade, latitudinal position between two ecoregions, a fire-induced timberline, and other conditions contribute to an abundance of plant communities. In fact, all three of New Hampshire’s biomes — alpine tundra, boreal forest, and eastern-deciduous forest — can be found on the mountain. These biomes include plant communities that are typically found at more northern latitudes and higher altitudes.
For instance, the high-elevation spruce-fir forests on the mountain’s upper slopes replicate lowland forests at more northern latitudes. The rocky balds are home to communities found at higher elevations in the White Mountains.
Such unique features make Mount Monadnock ideal for scientific study and educational outreach in the region. The mountain is fertile with opportunities for Antioch University New England graduate students studying conservation biology, resource management, environmental education, and environmental communications. In addition, Mount Monadnock can serve as a barometer of future changes for Northeastern forests. The mountain’s cold-loving plant communities, such as the spruce-fir forests, will be monitored over time to measure the effects of climate change. As the climate warms, these communities might be affected on Mount Monadnock sooner than at more northern climates. Such data will inform scientists and resource managers of oncoming challenges facing the region’s forests.