Harvard Forest LTER

USDA Forest Service Scientist Kevin Dodds examines the tree canopy in an ALB-infested forest in West Boylston, MA. Photo by Dave Orwig, Harvard Forest. Photo courtesy: Dave Orwig, Harvard Forest

Key Research Findings:

Harvard Forest scientists have advanced new approaches that link landowner behavior, land use practices, forest dynamics and the consequences of future scenarios of climate and land use change on forest habitat, wood and carbon in the Northeast.This research will play a pivotal role in guiding region-wide forest stewardship and policy.
Information from the world's longest continuous eddy-flux tower measurements at the Harvard Forest reveal that old forests can store carbon at rates higher than previously believed. This understanding represents a major paradigm shift and suggests that allowing forests to mature can be an important strategy for mitigating climate change.
Researchers at Harvard Forest and six other LTER sites brought the transformational concept of a "foundation species" into terrestrial ecology. Individual foundation species disproportionately influence local biodiversity and modulate ecosystem dynamics. This intellectual advance has motivated a new research agenda in ecology with broad applications to global change studies and investigations of species loss.


The Harvard Forest is located in a rural setting in north-central Massachusetts about 70 miles west of Boston. The 1200-hectare site lies in the Transition Hardwood-White Pine-Hemlock forest region, and includes a variety of forests and wetlands. Research at the Forest focuses on effects of natural and human disturbances on forest ecosystems. These disturbances include atmospheric pollution, global warming, hurricanes, treefalls, and insect outbreaks. Facilities include laboratories for nutrient analysis, physiological and population ecology, isozyme and pollen analysis; greenhouses; herbarium; computer laboratory; library; and a museum.

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Since 1907 research and education have been the mission of the Harvard Forest, one of the oldest and most intensively studied forests in North America. From a center comprised of 3000 acres of land, research facilities, and the Fisher Museum the scientists, students, and collaborators at the Forest explore topics ranging from conservation and environmental change to land-use history and the ways in which physical, biological and human systems interact to change our earth.

Research Topics:

Long-term climate change, disturbance history and vegetation dynamics; comparison of community, population, and plant architectural responses to human and natural disturbance; forest-atmosphere trace gas fluxes; organic matter accumulation, decomposition and mineralization; element cycling, fine root dynamics and forest microbiology.

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