In partnership with the Margret and H.A. Rey Center in Waterville Valley, the Center for the Environment is monitoring vegetation changes along altitudinal transects. This project was established on Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, NH in 2008 and a second transect was established in 2010 on Mount Starr King in Jefferson, NH.
At both sites, long-term data collection involving both vegetation phenology and microclimate data that will be utilized in conjunction with regional meteorological data sets to delineate the vegetation-climate trends of the region. Monitoring when plants undergo annual changes such as leaf budding, developing and losing leaves, and overall growth and comparing these data to climate trends helps to understand the changes that occur in vegetation in response to a changing climate. Conducting the monitoring along a gradient up the mountain helps reveal these changes due to the changes in microclimates with altitude.
At points along the gradient, plots are established and trees identified. Each plot and each tree is visited several times throughout the year to assess vegetation composition and conditions (e.g.presence/absence data, pathology) and several or more times per week, intra-seasonally, during the growing period, to observe and record phenophases of targeted species within each herbaceous plot and of each tagged tree. Concurrently, continuous measurements of air and soil temperature are collected via automated dataloggers placed within fifteen feet of the herbaceous plots.
The Mount Tecumseh Research Transect is used each summer as part of the Rey Center’s citizen science programming with both adults and children. Phenology research is an ideal means for informing the public about the probable consequences of climate change and for encouraging their support to monitor the outcomes. The Mount Starr King transect has been used as the basis for a phenology and climate curriculum that provides an opportunity for students to participate in data collection and analysis activities enhancing the life science, earth science, and inquiry components in science programming at the school.
Several CFE graduate and undergraduate students, under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Biology Michele Pruyn, have been involved with this project. These students participate in an intensive data collection field work in the spring and fall hiking 15 to 20 miles per week along the transects.