New Hampshire’s old-growth forests are unique, valuable, and endangered natural resources requiring protection and conservation.
The forest that greeted New Hampshire's original European settlers exists today only as scattered remnants. Known as old growth, virgin, primeval, or ancient forests, they escaped harvesting or other human modification over the last 350 years. Carbonneau (1986) identified only 12 old-growth forest sites totaling about 3,000 acres—less than one-tenth percent of forest in the state. More old growth likely occurs as small patches at high elevations and on steep, less-accessible areas. Threats to old growth include timber harvests, acid rain, and invasive insects.
Old-growth forests exhibit ecosystem stability and little or no evidence of human disturbance. They have many or all of the following characteristics.
Spruce, hemlock, yellow birch, beech, and sugar maple are the typical canopy species. Second growth or regenerating forests can also develop old-growth characteristics if sufficient time passes to obscure the effects of disturbance. In the northeast, at least 200 years is required to develop old-growth forest structure, although old-growth traits begin to develop at 100 years.
Preserve and maintain the integrity of existing old-growth stands and allow the development of old-growth characteristics where possible.
2.2 Forest Structure; 2.3 Regeneration Methods; 4.2 Wetlands; 4.3 Forest Management in Riparian Areas; 6.2 Cavity Trees, Dens and Snags; 6.3 Dead and Down Woody Material.
Bennett, K. P. (tech. coordinator). 2005. Moving Toward Sustainable Forestry: Lessons from Old Growth Forests. Natural Resource Network Report. UNH Cooperative Extension, Durham, N.H. 82 p.
Carbonneau, L. 1986. Old-Growth Forest Stands in New Hampshire: A Preliminary Investigation. M.Sc. thesis, University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H.
D’Amato, A., and P. Catanzaro. undated. Restoring Old-Growth Characteristics. UMass Extension, Amherst, Mass. 18 p.
D’Amato, A., and P. Catanzaro. undated. A Forest Manager's Guide to Restoring Late-Successional Forest Structure. UMass Extension, Amherst, Mass. 8 p.
Lapin, M. 2002. Old-Growth Forests: A Literature Review of the Characteristics of Eastern North American Forests. Vermont Natural Resources Council, Montpelier, Vt. 22 p.
Whitman, A., and J. M, Hagan. 2009. A Revised Rapid-Assessment Late-Successional Index for Common Northeastern Forest Types. Manomet Center for Conservation Studies, Brunswick, Maine.