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Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Weather station and momitoring equipment atop a hill at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest was established in 1955 as a major center for hydrologic research in New England. Located in the White Mountain National Forest in central New Hampshire, the 3,138-ha bowlshaped Hubbard Brook Valley has hilly terrain, ranging in elevation from 222 to 1,015 m. The Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study was established by a cooperative agreement in 1963. In 1988 the Hubbard Brook was designated as a Long-Term Ecological Research site by the National Science Foundation.


Annual precipitation at Hubbard Brook averages about 1,400 mm, with one-third to one-quarter as snow. The month of January averages about -9 °C and the average July temperature is 18 °C. The average number of days without killing frost is 145. The estimated annual evapotranspiration is about 500 mm.


Soils at the Hubbard Brook are predominantly welldrained Spodosols (Typic Haplorthods) derived from glacial till, with sandy loam textures. They are acidic (pH about 4.5 or less) and relatively infertile (base saturation of mineral soil ~ 10 percent). Soil depths, including unweathered till, average about 2.0 m surface to bedrock, though this is highly variable. Depth to the C horizon averages about 0.6 m. At various places, the C horizon exists as an impermeable pan.


The present second-growth forest is even-aged and composed of about 80 to 90 percent northern hardwoods and 10 to 20 percent spruce-fir.

Research, Past and Present

At Hubbard Brook, the following topics are being studied:
• The role of calcium supply in regulating the structure and function of base-poor forest and aquatic ecosystems
• Animal populations and communities
• Colder soils in a warmer world: a snow manipulation in a northern hardwood forest ecosystem
• Stream ecosystems
• A spatial model of soil parent material
• Modeling effects of acid deposition, forest disturbance, and soil chemistry on forest production and streamwater quality
• Remote sensing for measurement of canopy nitrogen and calcium content, and estimation of forest production and stream chemistry
• Landscape-scale controls on N retention and N gas fluxes in the Hubbard Brook Valley
• Nutrient uptake at the ecosystem scale
• Carbon and calcium controls on microbial biomass and invertebrate grazers
• Comparison of δ 15N and nitrification potential across a nitrate-loss gradient
• Response of northern hardwood forests to nutrient perturbation
• Edaphic controls on the structure and function of the northern hardwood forest
• Vegetation dynamics and primary productivity

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

At Hubbard Brook, the following subjects have been researched:
• Small watershed technique for studying biogeochemistry
• Factors regulating nutrient flux and cycling in northern hardwood forests
• First documentation of acid rain in North America
• Effects of forest harvesting disturbance on water quality and quantity
• Long-term effects of acid rain on soil nutrient pools and streamwater chemistry
• Relationship of interior forest bird populations and communities to forest structure and development
• Development and application of ecosystem process models: 1) hydrological, 2) forest growth and development, and 3) soil nutrient processes


At Hubbard Brook, collaborators include scientists from other Forest Service research units, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Brown University, Dartsmouth College, Syracuse University, Cornell University, University of Michigan, Yale University, Appalachian State University, State University of New York-Environmental Science and Forestry, USDI Geological Survey, Wellesley College, University of New Hampshire, and Smithsonian Institution.

Research Opportunities

The Hubbard Brook staff welcomes new studies and collaboration on existing ones. There is a need for expanded cooperative research in the fields of soil physics and forest hydrology.


The Robert S. Pierce Ecosystem Laboratory located at Hubbard Brook provides 835 m2 of space, including six offices, four laboratories, a conference room, six dormitory rooms, and a kitchen, baths, and showers. There is also a sample archive building and maintenance, storage, garage, and shop facilities.

Lat. 43°56′ N, long. 71°45′ W

Contact Information

Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
271 Mast Road
Durham, NH 03824
Tel: (603) 868-7636

Related Publications

Bailey, Amey Schenck; Hornbeck, James W.; Campbell, John L.; Eagar, Christopher. 2003. Hydrometeorological database for Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest: 1955-2000

Buso, Donald C.; Likens, Gene E.; Eaton, John S. 2000. Chemistry of precipitation, streamwater, and lakewater from the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study: a record of sampling protocols and analytical procedures

Holmes, Richard T.; Likens, Gene E. 1999. Organisms of the Hubbard Brook Valley, New Hampshire

Summary information presented here was originally published in:

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.

Information may have been updated since original publication.

Last Modified: 09/23/2015

Upcoming Event

Public Open House to celebrate 60 years at HBEF

Saturday, October 10th, 2015
10:00 am - 2:00 pm

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Featured Projects

A Smart Forest

In experimental forests and ranges throughout the United States, the USDA Forest Service is investing in digital sensors and telecommunications capacity to create an integrated monitoring and research program for the nation’s air, water, and forest resources, whether in rural or densely-populated areas. The USDA Forest Service Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is one of several Experimental Forests managed through the Northern Research Station that have been equipped to collect and transmit data in near real-time.

In addition to creating new ways for NRS scientists to understand our natural  resources, Smart Forest technology will also make data more broadly available to the public, educators, and resource managers.

More information on


With WaterViz, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest’s hydrologic data are translated into online digital  art and music. In real time. Hydrologic data are captured digitally from a small first order catchment on the forest using an array of environmental sensors. These data are transmitted to the internet and are used to drive a simple computer model that calculates all components of the water cycle for the catchment in real time. The complete set of measured and modeled data is then used to drive a flash visualization and sonification of the water cycle at Hubbard Brook EF that is available to viewers and listeners worldwide on the Internet at WaterViz at Hubbard Brook .
You can also listen in to the water cycle live on internet radio.

The station is available on any Shoutcast-capable Internet Radio Station app; search for “Hubbard Brook Forest Live.”

The WaterViz is a unique and novel approach to sharing the dynamic inputs, outputs, and storage of water in this small, upland forested watershed throughout the world as they are occurring.

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