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Table of Contents >> 7.5 Old-Growth Forests << 7.6 High-Elevation Forests >> 7.7 Steep Slopes



High-elevation forests are rare, distinct, and important ecosystems.

High-elevation forests occupy about 4 percent of New Hampshire. They are relatively undisturbed by human activities. Almost all high-elevation forests are on conservation lands, protected by conservation easements, or subject to zoning ordinances.

Soils are shallow and usually well- to moderately well-drained, nutrient-poor, acidic, and fragile. Shallow rooting disposes high-elevation forests to frequent windthrow. This natural disturbance is an important factor in determining forest structure. Linear patches of wind-induced mortality, called fir waves, are common in balsam fir stands. Moisture levels are high due to increased rainfall, snow, and cloud intercept. Moist conditions sometimes support acidic Sphagnum forest seeps (a wetland community found at high elevations).

A truncated growing season and harsh climate favor slow-growing conifers. The N.H. Natural Heritage Bureau (NHNHB) recognizes two conifer forest communities that are restricted to high-elevations, and one that occurs at lower elevations as well:

High-elevation forests are important for wildlife. These forests are core habitat for the state-threatened American marten and American three-toed woodpecker. New Hampshire is within the range of the state-endangered and federally threatened Canada lynx. Lynx are associated with dense, undisturbed boreal forests with a mix of mature conifer stands and shrubby openings. Fir waves produce these early successional patches at these elevations. In New Hampshire, signs of lynx are occasionally documented in the White Mountain National Forest. Bicknell's thrush breeding is restricted to montane spruce-fir forests in New Hampshire, New York and parts of Quebec. Wildlife common to high-elevation forests include moose, deer, black bear, fisher, and spruce grouse.

Several rare plants occur in high-elevation forests. The state-threatened heart-leaved twayblade, Loesel's twayblade, and northern comandra occur in spruce-fir and balsam fir communities. The state-watch species Pickering's bluejoint occurs in acidic Sphagnum forest seeps.


Maintain the long-term ecological integrity of high-elevation forests.




2.3 Regeneration Methods; 3.5 Soil Productivity; 6.2 Cavity Trees, Dens and Snags; 7.1 Natural Communities and Protected Plants; 7.2 Seeps; 7.5 Old-Growth Forests; 7.7 Steep Slopes.


N.H. Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Forests and Lands. 2004. Best Management Practices for Erosion Control on Timber Harvesting Operations in New Hampshire. State of New Hampshire. http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000247_Rep266.pdf Accessed March 13, 2010.

Sperduto, D.D., and W.F. Nichols. 2004. Natural Communities of New Hampshire. N.H. Natural Heritage Bureau, Dept. of Resources and Economic Development, Concord, N.H. 229 p.

7.5 Old-Growth Forests << 7.6 High-Elevation Forests >> 7.7 Steep Slopes

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