The Monadnock Ecological Research and Education (MERE) Project was initiated in 2007 by Professor Peter Palmiotto and graduate students in the Environmental Studies Department at Antioch University New England. Through collaborative partnerships with Monadnock State Park, The Monadnock Advisory Commission, The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Town of Jaffrey, and The Waterman Fund the MERE Project ultimately seeks to promote informed use and foster appreciation of Mount Monadnock through ecological research, monitoring, and educational outreach.
To accomplish this mission we will work to:
- Conduct ecological research that will be used to inform citizens and scientists of the current ecology of Mount Monadnock and the effects and progression of climate change.
- Provide education and opportunities for the public to engage in meaningful and influential environmental stewardship behaviors.
- Support and enhance the efforts of organizations that manage Mount Monadnock’s ecosystems to ensure that both the spirit and ecology of the mountain are preserved for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
Through several long-term ecological research projects, the MERE Project is working to develop an in-depth understanding of Mount Monadnock’s current ecological patterns and processes. As our global climate changes in the years to come, the MERE Project will monitor its progression by looking at what changes occur to the composition of the natural communities of Mount Monadnock.
The MERE Project will also conduct social science research on Mount Monadnock. We will look deeply into the cultural significance of Monadnock, reasons why so many people flock to the mountain, what motivates people to climb Mount Monadnock, and how a person’s environmental stewardship behavior is affected by their experience on the mountain.
Education & Outreach
Information collected through the MERE Project’s research will be available to the public through our website, community presentations, trail stewards and educational programs on Mount Monadnock, curricular programs at schools, scientific and popular articles, and other appropriate venues. The MERE Project will work to inform the public of how people’s actions affect Mount Monadnock, and provide opportunities for both visitors and regional residents to engage in meaningful environmental stewardship behaviors.
All of our work in research and education will also help the MERE Project to support and enhance the work of the organizations that manage and care for Mount Monadnock’s ecosystems. Research findings will provide valuable information to these organizations about which species are threatened by climate change or trampling by humans, thereby giving these organizations concrete data to support management decisions. The MERE Project’s education and outreach will also provide an effective venue for educating the public of how management decisions are being made to preserve the spirit and ecology of Mount Monadnock for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
A treeless summit rises up from the landscape, glistening silver on a sunny day. For residents of Jaffrey, Marlborough, Keene, Dublin, and other southwestern New Hampshire towns, Mount Monadnock stands alone as a prominent peak. Its dramatic presence has impressed and captivated local people for centuries, inspiring an abundance of folklore, art, music, and writing. The mountain draws affection from outside the region, too. Relatively small and easy to summit, at 3,165 feet, Monadnock is the popular hiking destination for over 95,000 visitors each year. That tally places Mount Monadnock as the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji.
In addition to having aesthetic, recreational, and economic importance, Mount Monadnock is ecologically diverse. The Mountain’s steep altitudinal grade, latitudinal position between two ecoregions, a fire-induced timberline, and other conditions contribute to an abundance of plant communities. In fact, all three of New Hampshire’s biomes alpine tundra, boreal forest, and eastern-deciduous forest can be found on the mountain. These biomes include plant communities that are typically found at more northern latitudes and higher altitudes.
For instance, the high-elevation spruce-fir forests on the mountain’s upper slopes replicate lowland forests at more northern latitudes. The rocky balds are home to communities found at higher elevations in the White Mountains.
Such unique features make Mount Monadnock ideal for scientific study and educational outreach in the region. The mountain is fertile with opportunities for Antioch University New England graduate students studying conservation biology, resource management, environmental education, and environmental communications. In addition, Mount Monadnock can serve as a barometer of future changes for Northeastern forests. The mountain’s cold-loving plant communities, such as the spruce-fir forests, will be monitored over time to measure the effects of climate change. As the climate warms, these communities might be affected on Mount Monadnock sooner than at more northern climates. Such data will inform scientists and resource managers of oncoming challenges facing the region’s forests.
As climate changes occurs, local ecology across the Northeast will be threatened by different temperature regimes, weather patterns, and other conditions. A recent report of The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) predicts that forest communities will change along with climate trends. As the temperatures rise and growing conditions transform, plant and animal communities are expected to move northward in search of suitable habitat, and more southern species will move in to take their places. The report predicts that new combinations of plant species might assemble based on the environmental conditions. On Mount Monadnock, for example, the cold-loving red spruce might disappear from the mountain. In addition, red oak, which is more dominant below 2000 feet, may increase in dominance higher up the mountain.
Changes in climate will also influence the spread of forest pests, pathogens, and invasive species. The hemlock wooly adelgid, an invasive insect that can decimate eastern hemlock forests, is currently spreading northward. It is kept at bay by cold winter temperatures, but warming trends might allow it to reach forests as far north as Canada.
As a result of climate change, NECIA lists northern plant communities, such as spruce-fir forests, at risk. This forest type covers much of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York and provides for the paper and pulp industry. It also harbors wildlife such as the snowshoe hare and the Canada lynx. The high-elevation spruce-fir forest found on Monadnock and other mountains provides nesting habitat for the Bicknell’s thrush, a neotropical migrant. What’s more, the increased carbon dioxide that causes warming may promote faster growth and greater demands on soil nutrients, further altering local ecology. In these ways, the compounding effects of climate change will influence the ecology, economy, and recreation associated with Northeastern forests.