New Hampshire is the second-most forested state in the nation, after neighboring Maine, with forests occupying approximately 82% the state's total land area. Conserving and managing large forested areas is necessary to provide wildlife habitat, clean water, recreation and tourism, and economically viable forest products. Forests also protect soils from erosion and add resilience to the landscape. In general, larger forest blocks provide greater ecological value and diversity than smaller fragmented patches. However, even smaller patches of forest can be valuable in their landscape context, e.g. a network of forest patches along a stream can create a riparian corridor that helps maintain water quality and wildlife habitat. NH's Changing Landscape Report (2010) reports that our forest lands continue to decline from a high of 87% in 1960 to about 82% today. This represents a loss of nearly 450 square miles of forest, with about one-third of that change occurring since 1997. The economic value of forests has been calculated at more than $1.7 billion dollars per year, or about 30% of the state’s gross domestic productivity from its open space economic sectors. Forests also provide many invisible amenities, including ecosystem services such as abundant clean water and air, the ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon, and the capacity to mitigate the effects of flooding.
Healthy forests play a key role in strategies to address climate change. One of the biggest contributors to climate change is carbon dioxide produced by human activity. Trees decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing it from the air and converting it into oxygen, which they release, and carbon, which they store. Because of this natural process, healthy forests are our most efficient, inexpensive, and natural system to combat climate change. Protecting and managing forests to retain and increase their carbon storage potential can maximize their ability to mitigate climate change.
Basic NRI - What to Include:
The NH Wildlife Action Plan (2015) has mapped five major "matrix" forest types" - these represent the largest most intact forests whose size and natural condition allows for the maintenance of ecological processes, natural communities and populations of forest interior species. These characteristics will likely contribute to resiliency of the landscape in a changing climate. Conserving large high quality forest blocks and natural connections between them will also allow plants and animals to move northward and higher in elevation as temperatures increase with climate change. The five matrix forest types mapped by the Wildlife Action Plan include: High Elevation Spruce-Fir, Low Elevation Spruce-Fir, Northern Hardwood-Conifer, Hemlock-Hardwood-Pine and Appalachian Oak-Pine. Descriptions of these habitats are included in the Wildlife Action Plan (Appendix B) and in Habitats of New Hampshire. Use these sources for written descriptions of the forest types. These location and extent of these forest blocks are shown on the NH Wildlife Habitats and Land Cover map (refer to the Wildlife section of the NRI).
You can also map Forest Soil Groups, such as:
- Group IA-Prime Northern Hardwoods
- Group IB-Prime Oak and Beech
- Group IC-High Volume White Pine
Detailed Inventory Studies:
Managed Forest Lands: The NH Tree Farm Program is a voluntary system that recognizes and promotes long-term forest management practices on private forest lands. A Tree Farm is a privately owned forest (greater than 10 acres in size) managed to produce timber with added benefits of improved wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation, and scenic values. There are also municipal watersheds, school forests and other public ownerships certified as Tree Farms. The NH Tree Farm Program has developed a statewide map showing the distribution of tree farms across the state. Approximately 1,500 New Hampshire Tree Farmers manage 500,000 acres. The familiar green and white Tree Farm sign signifies they are part of the nationwide American Tree Farm System.
NH Natural Heritage Bureau 'Natural Communities' are "recurring assemblages of plants and animals found in particular physical environments. Three characteristics distinguish natural communities: 1) plant species composition, 2) vegetation structure (e.g., forest, shrubland, or marsh), and 3) a specific combination of physical conditions (e.g., water, light, nutrient levels, and climate). Each natural community type occurs in specific settings in the landscape, such as wind-exposed rocky summits at high elevations, or muddy coastal river shores flooded daily by tides. Natural community types vary with changes in physical settings, resulting in predictable patterns across the landscape...Across much of the landscape, a few forest natural community types form a matrix, with other natural community types occurring as patches embedded within that matrix". Forested natural communities are documented in the Wooded Uplands and Wooded Wetlands section of the Natural Communities of NH web page. These data are not mapped, but can be included in the NRI narrative about forests. You can review the NH Natural Heritage Bureau's List of Rare Plants, Rare Animals and Exemplary Natural Communities in NH Towns to get information about which natural forest communities may be documented for your town.
Good Forestry in the Granite State (UNH Cooperative Extension). This voluntary guide provides landowners and the professionals who work with them practical recommendations and information on a wide variety of forest resources to help them make informed decisions that sustain the forest for today and the future.
Best Practices for Forestry: Protecting New Hampshire's Water Quality (UNH Cooperative Extension) describes Best Management Practices, or BMPs, for protecting water quality during forest harvests.
UNH Cooperative Extension Forests and Trees webpage for information on woodlot management, invasives, insect pests and more.