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Hubbard Brook Long-Term Ecological Research Site

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Long-Term Ecological Research at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest  (Cornell University)

Research Focus

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.

Field research has produced some of the most extensive and longest continuous databases on the hydrology, biology, geology and chemistry of a forest and its associated aquatic ecosystems. HBEF pioneered the small watershed technique as a method of studying ecosystem processes--namely 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. 

Specific research foci include 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.

Research Outcomes

Shifting songbirds: 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.

Forests that Govern: Pioneering research at Hubbard Brook LTER demonstrated the critical role of forests in providing stable flows of pure water. Long-term studies by HBR scientists have clarified the mechanisms underlying these and other forest ecosystem services, thereby providing the basis for projecting the social benefits from environmental policies.

Pioneering technique: 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.

Education & Outreach

Education and public outreach at Hubbard Brook date to the beginnings of the project in 1955. Since that time, hundreds of undergraduates have assisted in summer research, thousands of people have visited the site and Hubbard Brook scientists have presented information to students, professionals and interested public audiences.

The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation facilitates the education and outreach efforts. Efforts include a Science Links program; development of middle and high school teaching resources; an Undergraduate Research Program; an Environmental Literacy Program for middle and high school students; and two community-oriented initiatives--the Poultney Woodshed Project and the Northern Forest Watershed Services Project.

The staff also conducts tours of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to professional and student groups and speaks or arranges speakers for public and professional audiences by request.

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Images (1 of )

  • Body of water framed by trees with whitish bark
  • photo of v-notch weir
  • Photo showing equipment at NSF's Hubbard Brook LTER site that monitors rainwater chemistry
Northeastern lakes were once a witches' brew of acidifying waters that killed fish and birds.
The v-notch weir is used to quantify the hydrologic and biogeochemical mass-balance of small watersheds and responses to whole-ecosystem experimental manipulations.
Hubbard Brook LTER
Meteorological and precipitation chemistry monitoring at NSF's Hubbard Brook LTER Site.
NSF Hubbard Brook LTER Site