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Bartlett Experimental Forest

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bartlett Experimental ForestThe Bartlett Experimental Forest is the site of research to answer questions about ecological structure, function, and process in New England’s northern hardwood forests and to provide guidelines for managing timber and wildlife habitat. The Bartlett is within the Saco Ranger District of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and is managed by the Northern Research Station at Durham, New Hampshire. Established in 1931, it encompasses 1,052 ha but will likely double in size with the forest plan revision that is being written. The forest extends from the Village of Bartlett in the Saco River Valley at 207 m to about 915 m elevation at its upper reaches. Aspects across the forest are primarily north and east.

The White Mountain National Forest, including the Bartlett, was purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911. In the late 19th century, the area was selectively logged for high-value species, first eastern white pine and red spruce and later sugar maple and yellow birch. Logging railroads were laid and hardwood stands were clearcut for locomotive fuel. The lower third of the Bartlett was logged and some portions were cleared for pasture. Upper portions were progressively less impacted with increasing elevation. Although fires are relatively rare, the 1938 hurricane did widespread damage. High-grading resulted in more American beech, so that when the beech scale-Nectria complex (beech bark disease), arrived in the 1940s, it caused substantial damage and continues to influence stand dynamics. An ice storm in 1998 was the most recent widespread natural disturbance, affecting mostly higher elevation stands. Occasional windstorms are common, but of relatively small scale.


Summers are warm with high temperatures frequently above 32 °C. Winters are cold with low temperatures often reaching -5 °C. Average annual precipitation is 1,270 mm, well distributed throughout the year. In winter, individual storms can drop more than 600 mm of snow, which most years accumulates to depths of 1.5 to 2 m.


The soils on the Bartlett are spodosols that developed on glacial till derived from granite and gneiss. The soils are moist but usually well drained. In places, the soil is shallow and boulders and rocks are common throughout the forest.


There are areas of old-growth northern hardwoods with American beech, yellow birch, sugar maple, and eastern hemlock the dominant species. Even-aged stands of red maple, paper birch, and aspen occupy sites that once were cleared. Red spruce stands cover the highest slopes, and eastern white pine is confined to the lowest elevations.

Research, Past and Present

For the first 50 years, research on the Bartlett focused on managing northern hardwood stands for timber. An array of silvicultural prescriptions was applied, including single-tree selection, group and patch cutting, clearcutting, and diameter-limit harvesting. Although these are among the longest running studies in this forest type, many management questions about thinning regimes, tree-quality development, etc. remain and silvicultural research continues. Silvicultural treatments create a range of stand compositions and structures that are ideal for wildlife habitat studies. For the past 20 years, relationships between vegetation management and needs of wildlife throughout their life cycles have been investigated intensely. Such research focuses on amphibians, small mammals, and birds. Since 1995, the Bartlett has become a primary site for tests of emerging airborne and spaceborne remote-sensing technologies, including imaging spectrometry, imaging laser, and radar systems. These technologies are evaluated for their ability to estimate forest composition, structure and growth, and ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage. This research, though primarily at the landscape or broader scales, critically depends on the long-term detailed records from the Bartlett.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

Northern hardwood forest management in New England is based largely on research done at the Bartlett. Regeneration methods and early stand management have been influenced by studies there, as have recommendations for managing habitat for wildlife. Research on the Bartlett research has been instrumental by understanding forest response following disturbance and in providing reference data for field and remotesensing studies aimed at understanding nutrient cycling, growth, and carbon storage. Technology transfer is a major function, with numerous workshops and tours annually.


On the Bartlett, collaborating specialists include those from the White Mountain National Forest, other Northeastern Research Station scientists, and faculty and graduate students from the University of New Hampshire. Remote sensing is studied in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Research Opportunities

Opportunities for studying all aspects of ecology and management of northern hardwood forests in New England are nearly unlimited on the Barteltt and manipulative experiments are possible in collaboration with NE scientists. Project staff will facilitate nonmanipulative studies that do not conflict with the long-term mission of the forest.


Facilities at the Bartlett include an office and laboratory space, a conference room, and quarters for up to 25 people.

Lat. 44°2′39″ N, long. 71°9′56″ W

Contact Information

Bartlett Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
271 Mast Road
Durham, NH 03824
Tel: 603-868-7659

Related Publications

Costello, C.A. 1995. Songbird response to group selection harvests and clearcuts on the White Mountain National Forest. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire. M.S. Thesis. 94 p.

Crow, G.E., Ritter, N.P, McCauley, K.M., Padgett, D.J. 1994. Botanical reconnaissance of Mountain Pond Research Natural Area. Gen. Tech, Rept. NE-187. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment

Fatemi, Farrah R. 2005. Aboveground Biomass and Nutrient Content in Developing Hardwood Stands at Bartlett Experimental Forest, NH Station. 11 p.

Filip, S.M., Little, E.L. Jr. 1971. Trees and shrubs of the Bartlett Experimental Forest, Carroll County, New Hampshire. Res. Paper NE-211. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 20 p.

Krusic, R. 1995. Habitat use and identification of bats in the White Mountain National Forest. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire. M.S. Thesis. 86 p.

Leak, William B. 2006. Fifty-year impacts of the beech bark disease in the Bartlett Experimental Forest, New Hampshire

Leak, W.B. 1996. Long-term structural change in uneven-aged northern hardwoods. Forest Science 42(2):160-165.

Leak, W.B., Smith, M-L. 1996. Sixty years of management and natural disturbance in a New England forested landscape. Forest Ecology and Management 81:63-73.

Leak, W.B., Smith, M-L. 1997. Long-term species and structural changes after cleaning young even-aged northern hardwoods in New Hampshire, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 95: 11-20.

Royte, J.L., Sperduto, D.D., Lortie, J.P. 1996. Botanical reconnaissance of Nancy Brook Research Natural Area. Gen. Tech. Rept. NE-216. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 23 p.

Solomon, D.S., Leak, W.B. 1994. Migration of tree species in New England based on elevational and regional analyses. Res. Pap. NE-688. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 9 p.

USDA Forest Service Northeastern Research Station. 1998. Bartlett Experimental Forest

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: 05/10/2016