Natural Community Systems -- Photo Guide

Sandy pond shore system

a sandy pond shore system on Ossipee Lake (photo by Dan Sperduto for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
sandy pond shore system on Ossipee Lake (photo by Dan Sperduto)

a sandy pond shore system at Lake Massasecum (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
a sandy pond shore system at Lake Massasecum (photo by Ben Kimball)

DescriptionSandy pond shores occur primarily in central and southern New Hampshire in association with sand plain regions and occasionally along lakes in till settings where there is a local accumulation of sand along the shore.  These sandy to gravelly shores and peaty sand shores are a stressful environment for plants to grow due to the infertile mineral soil, widely fluctuating water levels, and regular wave action and ice scouring.  Narrow vegetation zones are strung parallel to the shoreline and relate to elevation above the lake and degree of wave and ice disturbance (ranging from shrub border to aquatic beds).  While these wetlands do contain many common wetland species, a high proportion of the plants present are stress-tolerators or ruderals, and many have coastal plain affinities and are restricted to pond shores or basin marshes in New Hampshire.  The primary diagnostic natural community types of this system are the bulblet umbrella-sedge open sandy pond shore and water lobelia aquatic sandy pond shore.  Examples with peaty sand development occur on only a few lakes (including Ossipee Lake) and are characterized by the twig-rush sandy pond shore community with a high diversity of rare coastal plain species.  A few examples on Ossipee Lake have the rare hudsonia inland beach strand community, characterized by sand plain species on a dry beach ridge.  Sand and gravel shores of lakes in ponds in the White Mountains and North Country have some floristic and geomorphic similarities, but lack coastal plain and southern species.  Further sampling and evaluation of these examples is needed to determine if they warrant consideration as separate systems.

Diagnostic natural communities:

      • Sweet gale - alder shrub thicket (S3)

      • Twig-rush sandy turf pond shore (S1)

      • Bulblet umbrella-sedge open sandy pond shore (S2)

      • Water lobelia aquatic sandy pond shore (S1S2)

      • Hudsonia inland beach strand (S1)

Landscape settings: borders of ponds and lakes with sandy bottoms or sandy littoral zones

Soils: sand and gravel, sometimes peaty sands; poorly to very poorly drained; seasonally and semi-permanently, intermittently exposed, and permanently flooded; oligotrophic; limnogenous

Spatial pattern: extensive narrow-linear shape (2 - 50 m wide by 10 - 1,000+ m in length); narrow zonation parallel to shoreline

Physiognomy: tall-medium shrub, tall herbaceous, short herbaceous, floating and submersed aquatic

Distribution: mostly east-central and southern New Hampshire, occasional further north

Characteristic species:
Pond shore wetland communities:
Rhexia virginica (Virginia meadow beauty)
      Cladium mariscoides (twig-rush)
      Viola lanceolata (lance-leaved violet)
      Euthamia caroliniana (fine grass-leaved goldenrod)
      Cyperus dentatus (bulblet umbrella-sedge)
      Juncus pelocarpus (mud rush)
      Gratiola aurea (golden-pert)
      Agalinis purpurea var. parviflora (small-flowered gerardia)
      Eriocaulon aquaticum (pipewort)
      Lobelia dortmanna (water lobelia)
      Sagittaria graminea (grass-leaved arrowhead)
      Sagittaria latifolia (common arrowhead)

   Hudsonia inland beach strand:
      Hudsonia tomentosa (hairy hudsonia)
      Hudsonia ericoides (golden-heather)
      Prunus pumila var. cuneata (sand cherry)
      Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak)
      Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
      Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)
      Vaccinium macrocarpon (large cranberry)

Associated natural community systems: Sandy pond shore systems are always associated with ponds, lakes and adjacent, upland forest. They are sometimes associated with poor to medium level fen systems and emergent marsh - shrub swamp systems that typically occur behind a sandy berm or on lower-energy sections of shoreline.

sandy pond shore natural communities
Possible sequence of sandy pond shore system natural communities; other combinations are possible.

A sandy pond shore system (right) grades into a medium level fen system and marsh community (left) on the south shore of Ossipee Lake (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
A sandy pond shore system (right) grades into a medium level fen system and
marsh community (left) on the south shore of Ossipee Lake (photo by Ben Kimball)

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