The White Mountains of New Hampshire can be considered the headwaters of New England. Headwater streams of the Connecticut River, Merrimack River, Saco River, and Androscoggin River flow from the region. The Center for the Environment is involved with several research projects related to understanding the hydrology of the region. Assistant professor Mark Green leads this work.
Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest: The close proximity of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) allows the Center’s faculty and students to engage in cutting-edge hydrological research. Current research projects involve understanding the impact of forest fertilization on hydrology, tracing water sources with water isotopes, and detecting decadal trends in the long-term hydrologic record.
Water Isotopes: Mark Green is compiling water samples from across the White Mountains region and analyzing their isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen. Different water sources have different “isotopic signatures,” allowing Mark to better understand how water moves throughout the region. For example, deep groundwater usually has a distinct signature, allowing its relative abundance in lakes and streams to be detected. So far, isotope samples from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, Israel’s River, Canaan Street Lake, Clay Brook (in Plymouth, NH), and various sites in the the White Mountain National Forest have been analyzed for different projects. As the database grows, the region’s hydrology becomes more clear.
- Read about graduate student Kristin Brandt’s work: “Using stable water isotopes as tracers to develop a conceptual model of the source waters connected to streams within the Pemigewasset River watershed, NH.“
Tropical Storm Irene: Tropical storm Irene in August 2011 generated an unprecedented opportunity for PSU & CFE to learn about the Pemigewasset watershed, how it produces major floods, and the water quality during floods. PSU and CFE were in a unique place to capture data from the event and hydrologist Mark Green and geologist Lisa Doner worked hard during the day and night from before the storm through September 2nd to collect approximately 50 samples from the Plymouth/Campton area.
The volume of rainfall on the landscape from the storm likely caused nutrients to be released and flushed through the system and into the rivers and streams. Capturing the large release of elements at one time is unique; it helps understand the potential implications for forest health after such large flushing events. Water samples from the Pemi River were analyzed in CFE’s Environmental Research Lab to determine the nutrient and element concentrations in the samples as well as the isotopic composition which will help explain the sources of the flood waters throughout the flood. Results are forthcoming.
Ore Hill Reclamation Project: The White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) has partnered with the Center for the Environment for monitoring water quality at the former Ore Hill Mine in Warren, NH. The former mine has impacted Ore Hill Brook due to the discharge of acidic water with high metal content. The Forest Service reclaimed the site in 2006 under its Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) authority. Graduate students are involved in regularly sampling the stream that drains the site to monitor changes in the water chemistry at the site. The data from this work assists a long term effort by the WMNF to protect the water resources of the area around the mine.