Natural Communities of NH -- Photo Guide

Montane lichen talus barren  (S3)



Montane lichen talus barrens
are open slopes in the mountains with large, lichen-covered rocks and little or no soil accumulation or vascular plant cover. These communities occur mostly above 2,200 feet in elevation, but also occasionally as low as 1,500 feet. They often occur in association with other talus communities, and occasionally share scattered individuals of some of the same species.

Little soil is able to accumulate, and drought conditions likely prevail during much of the growing season due the lack of moisture-holding capacity. Soil that does accumulate is often very nutrient-poor (oligotrophic). Lichens are the obvious dominant life form, including umbilicate and foliose growth forms, but invertebrates and small mammals are probably common among the rocks as well. Scattered and stunted spruce and birch trees may be present. Vascular plant cover is usually less than 5%.

Characteristic Vegetation: Although data on lichens have not been collected specifically in this community, it is likely that the species present are more montane in distribution, as are the vascular plants found in or around this community. Occasional montane or boreal vascular plant species may include red spruce (Picea rubens), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), heartleaf birch (Betula cordifolia), paper birch (B. papyrifera), yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis), and mountain maple (Acer spicatum). Rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum), gooseberries and currents (Ribes spp.), and common hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) may also occur.



Good examples of this community are found on Cannon Mtn., Bondcliff, and the west side of Whitewall Mtn. in Zealand Notch, and in King Ravine and Ice Gulch.

Montane lichen talus barrens often occur as part of a larger montane acidic talus system.


montane lichen talus barren on Bondcliff (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Montane lichen talus barren on Bondcliff
(photo by Ben Kimball)


Montane lichen talus barren at Cape Horn (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Montane lichen talus barren at Cape Horn (photo by Ben Kimball)

Montane lichen talus barren in Castle Ravine (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Montane lichen talus barren in Castle Ravine (photo by Ben Kimball)

Montane lichen talus barren at Magalloway Mountain (photo by Bill Nichols for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Montane lichen talus barren at Magalloway Mountain (photo by Bill Nichols)

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