The description and distribution of natural communities on Mount Monadnock, NH: Implication in the face of climate change

Mallard, David R.
Peter Palmiotto, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Mount Monadnock, located in southwestern New Hampshire, has a unique set of environmental and ecological conditions that may prove to be extremely valuable in determining the impacts of climate change on the region’s natural communities. In order to track the response of Mount Monadnock’s natural communities to future climatic changes, permanent sampling plots were established to describe their current characteristics and distribution. During the spring and summer of 2007, 88 plots were established between 2000 and 3000 feet in elevation. At each plot, the size and species of each tree (greater than two inches in diameter), tree canopy height, a tally of saplings of each species, the percent cover of shrubs, the presence of ground cover plant species, and soil depths were recorded. A qualitative health assessment of live trees was conducted and a qualitative assessment of dead tree decay was recorded, as well as the general community structure and composition outside of each plot. Seven distinct community types were identified within the study area; subalpine rocky bald, sheep laurel- Labrador tea heath-krummholz, red spruce-heath-cinquefoil rocky ridge, high elevation sprucefir forest, northern hardwood-spruce-fir forest, sugar maple-beech-yellow birch forest, and hemlock-beech-oak pine forest. Subalpine rocky bald and sheep laurel-Labrador tea heathkrummholz communities are both rare statewide (S2) and along with the dominant high elevation spruce-fir forest are egionally extremely rare and considered to be highly sensitive to climate change. The presence of rare communities on Mount Monadnock sensitive to climate change makes this mountain an important early indicator of the impacts to northeastern mountain ecosystems if rapid climate change occurs.