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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

Research Natural Area

Alpine Gardens

[photo:] Alpine Gardens RNA - a woman hiker standing on a rock, looking out over a mountainous area.  Photo by Lucy Tyrrell.State: New Hampshire

County: Coös

Forest: White Mountain

District: Androscoggin

Established: 1989

Acres: 100

Description: This RNA is an outstanding example of an alpine tundra community. The Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire has the largest total area of alpine tundra environment in the eastern United States. The RNA supports the richest assemblage of arctic-alpine plants in the region, most of which are rare in the coterminous United States. Scattered areas of krummholz, which are composed of dwarfed and matted black spruce (Picea mariana) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea), are also present. The area contains a former candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the Boott’s rattlesnake-root (Prenanthes boottii (DC) Gray). The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory has determined that the site also contains 7 state endangered plants, 24 state threatened plants, 7 state rare plants, 3 state endangered animals and 2 state rare animals.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions:

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA : The weather observatory on the summit of Mt. Washington is ¼ mile (0.4 km) west of the RNA, at an elevation of 6262 feet (1909 m).

Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) : Average annual precipitation is 84.29 inches (214 cm), which is evenly distributed throughout the year.

Maximum and minimum temperatures : Mean January temperature is 4.9 ºF, and the mean July temperature is 48.2 ºF.

Elevation: The elevation ranges from 4760 feet (1450 m) on the eastern side to 5500 feet (1676 m) at the high point just below the summit of Mt. Washington.

Geology and Soils: The RNA is an old erosion surface composed of lower Devonian mica schists and gneisses of the Littleton formation. On the slope above this plain is an area consisting of large angular boulders up to 3 feet (0.9 m) in diameter. Vegetation is located within interstices of these rocks. No soils are classified; only “rock outcrop.”

Aquatic Features: None


Ecological Classification & Inventory

Section: White Mountain (M212A)

Subsection(s): White Mountain (M212Ad)

Landtype Association(s): Mountain Tops/Spruce-Fir

13B, Tundra on Broad Ridgetops and Upper Slopes with Very Bouldery Angular Drift - 98 acres
13C, Softwood Krummholz on Broad Ridgetops and Upper Slopes with Very Bouldery Angular
Drift - 2 acres.

SAF Cover Types (list acres): Kuchler Types (list acres):

12a Black Spruce (2)


Common Shrub Species: Bog-bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum L.), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.), Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), bearberry willow (Salix uva-ursi ).

Common Herbaceous Species: Bland sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii), silvery glade-fern (Athyrium thelypteroides), aster (Aster acuminatus), yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), fancy wood-fern (Dryopteris intermedia), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), eastern waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), wild leek (Allium tricoccum), northern wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), nettle (Laportea canadensis).

Complete Plant List: Alpine Gardens RNA Plant List

Common Mammal Species: Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), rock vole (Microtus chrotorrhinus), southern red-backed vole (Clethrionomys gapperi).

Common Bird Species: Black-backed three-toed woodpecker (Picoides sp.), magnolia warbler (Dendroica magnolia), yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), brown tree creeper (Climacteris picumnus), golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa), yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata), slate-colored junco (Junco sp.), red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus), white throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), water pipit (Anthus spinoletta).

Related Publications:

Aber, J. D., C. T. Driscoll. 1997. Effects of land use, climate variation and N deposition on N cycling and C storage in northern hardwood forests. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 11: 639-648.

Alexander, C. 1940. The Presidential Range of New Hampshire as a biological environment, with particular reference to the insects. American Midland Naturalist, 24:104-132.

Antevs, E. 1932. Alpine zone of the Mt. Washington Range. Auburn, Maine: Merrill & Weber. 118 p.

Bailey, S.W. 1984. Watershed characteristics affecting stream and pond chemistry. MS thesis, University of New Hampshire, Durham.

Bailey, S.W.; J.W. Hornbeck; C.W. Martin; D.C. Buso. 1987. Watershed factors affecting stream acidification in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA. Environ. Management, 11:53-60.

Bailey, S.W. 1994a. Biogeochemistry of aluminum and calcium in a linked forest-aquatic ecosystem, Ph.D. thesis, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

Bailey, S.W. 1994b. Differentiating between weathering and cation loss in a base-poor watershed. Eos. 75:F279.

Bailey, S.W.; C.T. Driscoll; J.W. Hornbeck. 1995. Acid-base chemistry and aluminum transport in an acidic watershed and pond in New Hampshire. Biogeochem. 28: 69-91.

Bailey, S.W.; J.W. Hornbeck; C.T. Driscoll; H.E. Gaudette 1996. Calcium inputs and transport in a base-poor forest ecosystem as interpreted by Sr-isotopes. Water Resources Research. 32:707-719.

Baird, S.F. 1984. Snowmelt effects on the chemistry of Cone Pond. University of New Hampshire, Durham. M.S. thesis.

Baird, S.F.; D.C. Buso; J.W. Hornbeck. 1985. Access pipes for multiple sampling under ice. Limnol. Oceanogr. 30:1129-1130.

Baird, S.F.; D.C. Buso; J.W. Hornbeck. 1987. Acid pulses from snowmelt at acidic Cone Pond, New Hamshire. Water Air Soil Pollut. 34: 325-338.

Benjamin, S. S. 1996. Effects of N status on DOC dynamics in forest soils. University of New Hampshire, Durham. MS thesis

Bliss, L. 1963. Alpine Plant communities of the Presidential Range, New Hampshire. Ecology 44(4): 678-697.

Bliss, L. 1966. Plant productivity in alpine microenvironments on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Ecological Monographs 36(2): 125-155.

Boylen, C.W.; R. Slinger; D.A. Roberts. 1985. Biological and chemical field survey of small New Hampshire lakes sensitive to acid deposition. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. FWI Report. 85:1

Brackley, F.E.; Kacprzynski, Frederick T. 1989. Establishment Record of Alpine Gardens Research Natural Area within the White Mountain National Forest, Coös County, New Hampshire. 30 pp.

Bukaveckas, P.; W. Shaw. 1998. Phytoplankton responses to nutrient and grazer manipulations among northeastern lakes of varying pH. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 55: 958-966.

Bullen, T.D.; S.W. Bailey; W.C. Shortle. 1998. Sr isotope variations in spruce growth rings as an indicator of forest biomass response to acid rain. Eos. 79: s89

Buso, D.C.; C.W. Martin; J.W. Hornbeck. 1984. Potential for acidification of six remote ponds in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Water Resources Research Center, Durham New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, Research Report Number 43:1984.

Buso, D.C.; S.W. Bailey; S.F. Baird; J.W. Hornbeck. 1985. Watershed interactions affecting pond acidification. Research Report No. 62. Durham NH: New Hampshire Water Resources Research Center. 61, 985.

Buso, D. C.; R.B. Smith; J.W. Hornbeck. Historical development of an old-growth stand on the White Mountain National Forest [In preparation].

Confer, J.L.; T. Kaaret; G.E. Likens. 1983. Zooplankton diversity and biomass in recently acidified lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 40:36-42.

David, M. B.; G.B. Lawrence. 1996. Soil and soil solution chemistry under red spruce stands across the northeastern USA. Soil Sci. 161: 314.

Fincher, J.M. 1991. The relationship of soil-site factors to forest plant communities in the Green Mountain and White Mountain National Forests. University of New Hampshire, Durham. M.S. thesis.

Ford, J. 1986. The recent history of a naturally acidic lake (Cone Pond, NH), IN: Diatoms and Lake Acidity, edited by J.P. Smol, R.W. Battarbee, R.B. Davis, and J. Merilainen, pp. 131-148, Dr. W. Junk Publisher, Dordrecht.

Ford, M.S. 1990. A 10,000-year history of natural ecosystem acidification. Ecol. Monog. 60: 57-89.

Foss, C., ed. 1994. Atlas of breeding birds in New Hampshire. Dover, NH: Arcadia. 414 p.

Fox, J.A. 1995. An examination of NO3-N movement in the Cone Pond watershed in central New Hampshire. 28:69-91.

Fox, J.A.; W.H. McDowell; J.W. Hornbeck. 1995. An examination of NO3-N movement in the Cone Pond watershed in central New Hampshire. Final Report, Cooperative Agreement.

Gibson, K.N.; J.P. Smol; J. Ford. 1987. Chrysophycean microfossils provide new insight into the recent history of a naturally acidic lake (Cone Pond, New Hampshire). Can. J. Gish. Aquat. Sci. 44:1584-1588.

Giblin, A.E.; G.E. Likens; D. White; R.W. Howarth. 1990. Sulfur storage and alkalinity generation in New England lake sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 35:852.869.

Gödde, M; et al. 1996. Carbon mobilization from the forest floor under red spruce in the northeastern USA. Soil Biol. Ciochem. 28: 1181-1189.

Goldthwait, R. 1940. Geology of the Presidential Range. N.H. Acad. Sci. Bull. No. 1. New Hampshire Academy of Science, 43 p.

Hadley, E., and L. Bliss. 1964. Energy relationships of alpine plants on Mt. Washington, N.H. Ecological Monographs 34(4): 331-357.

Havens, K.E. 1991. Crustacean zooplankton food web structure in lakes of varying acidity. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 48:1846-1852.

Hislop, J.E.; J.W. Hornbeck; S.W. Bailey;R.A. Hallett 1998. Development of internal forest soil reference samples and testing of digestion methods. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 29: 1991-1996.

Hornbeck, J.W.; S.W. Bailey; D.C. Buso; J.B. Shanley 1995. Regional representation of three experimental watersheds in New England. Eos. 76: F261.

Hornbeck, J. W.; G.B. Lawrence. 1996. Eastern forest fires can have long-term impacts on nitrogen cycling. Proceedings of the 1996 Society of American Foresters Convention, Albuquerque. Pp. 436-436.

Hornbeck, J.W.; S. W. Bailey; D.C. Buso; J.B. Shanley 1997. Stream chemistry and nutrient budgets for forested watersheds in New England: variability and management implications. For. Ecology Manag. 93:73-89.

Hornbeck, J.W.; S.W. Bailey 1998. Factors controlling streamwater chemistry in upland forested catchments of northeastern United States, in Headwaters: Water Resources and Soil Conservation, edited by M.J. Haigh, J. Krecek, G.S. Rajwar, and M.P. Kilmartin, pp. 59-67, Oxford and IBH Publishing, New Dehli.

Hornbeck, J.W.; S.W. Bailey; D.C. Buso; J.B. Shanley 1999. Streamwater chemistry: A useful tool for forest manager, in Wildland Hydrology, edited by D.S. Olsen, and J.P. Potyondy. American Water Resources Association, Herndon, VA. 361-367.

Hyman,M.E. 1993. Rates of Mineral Weathering in the Cone Pond Watershed, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. MS thesis.

Hyman,M.E., et. al. 1998. Chemical weathering and cation loss in a base-poor watershed. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 110:85-95.

Lawrence, G.B.; D.M. Wolock; S. W. Bailey; J. W. Hornbeck 1996. Variable source areas as controls of flow-related changes in stream chemistry. Eos 77:F226.

Lawrence, G.B.; M.B. David; W.C. Shortle. 1995 A new mechanism for calcium loss in forest-floor soils. Nature. 378:162–165.

Lawrence, G.B.; M.B. David; S.W. Bailey; W. C. Shortle 1997. Assessment of soil calcium status in red spruce forests of the northeastern U.S. Biogeochemistry. 38:19-39.

Lawry, N.H. 1988a. Overland to Cone Pond; an environmental acid trip. New Hampshire Spirit. 1:25-96.

Lawry, N.H. 1988b. A question of rain. New Hampshire Profiles. 88:51-127.

Leal, C. A.; M. Montesalvo; J.E. Hislop. 1997. Neutron activation analysis of forest soils. American Nuclear Society. Orlando, FL. June.

Levesque, C., and J. Burger. 1982. Insects (Diptera, Hymneoptera) associated with Minuartia groenlandica (Caryophyllaceae) on Mt. Washington, N.H., U.S.A., and their possible role as pollinators. Arctic and Alpine Research 14(2): 117-124.

Lyon, C., and W. Reiners. 1971. Natural area of New Hampshire suitable for ecological research. Revised edition. Department of Biological Sciences Pub. No. 4. Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College, 75 p.

Miller, G. S. Jr. 1985. On a collection of small mammals from the New Hampshire mountains. Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History 26:177-197.

Pardo, L. H.; J.W. Hornbeck. 1996. Natural abundance of 15N as a tool for assessing nitrogen loss patterns from forest soils. Bull. Ecol. Soc Amer. 76:205-206.

Pett-Ridge, J.; L.H. Pardo. 1997. Species differences in natural abundance of 15N at three New Hamshire forests. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Amer. 78: 296.

Reiners, W., and G. Lang. 1979. Vegetational patterns and processes in the balsam fir zone, White Mountains, New Hampshire. Ecology 60:403-417.

Ross, D. S.; M.B. David; G.B. Lawrence; R.J. Bartlett. 1996. Exchangeable hydrogen explains the pH of Spodosol Oa horizons. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 60:1926–1932.

Selva, S.B., and M.P. Edburg. 1994. Lichen diversity and stand continuity in the northern hardwoods and spruce-fir forests of Vermont and New Hampshire. II. Report prepared for the Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Durham, NH.

Selva, S.B., and M.P. Edburg. 1995. Lichen diversity and stand continuity in the northern hardwoods and spruce-fir forests of New Hampshire, Vermont and the Adirondacks of New York. Report on file with the Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Durham, NH.

Stevenson, F.J.; R. Singer; D.A. Roberts; C.W.Boylen. 1985. Patterns of epipelic algal abundance with depth, trophic status, and acidity in poorly buffered New Hamshire lakes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 42:1501-1512.

Tiffney, W., Jr. 1972. Snow cover and the Diapensia lapponica habitat in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Rhodora 74:358-377.

Last Modified: 12/31/2014