Hubbard Brook LTER

Measuring Soil Hydraulic Conductivity: Joel Detty (left) and Rachel Cloutier (right), students from Plymouth State University, measuring hydraulic conductivity of soil using a compact constant-head permeameter. (Kevin McGuire)

Key Research Findings:

Global warming affects weather in all seasons. Hubbard Brook scientists have measured winter conditions for over five decades and learned that shorter periods of snow and ice cover are forcing significant changes in the structure and function of Northeast forests.
Hubbard Brook scientists have produced the longest continuous songbird record in North America and discovered that changing habitat, land use practices, and climate in eastern forests, tropical forests, and migratory routes drive the abundance of these beloved forest musicians.
Hubbard Brook scientists pioneered the small watershed approach, which transformed the study of forests by using whole watersheds as living laboratories. This ground-breaking approach fostered many new discoveries beneficial to both science and society.


The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) is a 3,160 hectare reserve located in the White Mountain National Forest, near Woodstock, New Hampshire. The on-site research program is dedicated to the long-term study of forest and associated aquatic ecosystems.


The HBEF was established by the USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station in 1955 as a major center for hydrologic research in New England. In the early 1960's, Dr. F. Herbert Bormann and others proposed the use of small watersheds to study element cycling. In 1963, the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (HBES) was initiated by Bormann and Drs. Gene E. Likens and Noye M. Johnson, then on the faculty of Dartmouth College, and Dr. Robert S. Pierce of the USDA Forest Service. They proposed to use the small watershed approach at Hubbard Brook to study linkages between hydrologic and nutrient flux and cycling in response to natural and human disturbances, such as air pollution, forest cutting, land-use changes, increases in insect populations and climatic factors.

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Research Topics:

Vegetation structure and production; dynamics of detritus in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; atmosphere-terrestrial-aquatic ecosystem linkages; heterotroph population dynamics; effects of human activities on ecosystems.

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