The Dormant Season

With snow and ice covering the ground for most of the winter, and with October frosts having knocked back most of the herbaceous plant species, many of New Hampshire's terrestrial natural communities remain in a state akin to dormancy until spring. Some communities can still be identified based on a combination of geographic location and tree species composition and/or structural characteristics (such as beech forests and high-elevation spruce - fir forests), but without waiting until the growing season to look for understory species, positive identification is usually difficult. While some wildlife species (such as snowshoe hares and subnivian rodents) thrive in normal winter conditions, many (such as bears, and most insects and amphibians) either hibernate or otherwise remain dormant for much of the season.

The very mild early start to this year's winter will undoubtedly have an effect in the coming year, as the warm conditions likely benefit some species over others, but such "wild mood swings" are common in nature and most species prove resilient to heat waves, cold snaps, and other short-term anomalies. The longer term implications of global climate change on the state's biodiversity is unclear, however, and remains a topic of significant concern.

Franconia Ridge alpine zone peeking from behind the subalpine summit of Mt. Flume in February (photo by Ben Kimball for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)
Franconia Ridge alpine zone peeking from behind
the subalpine summit of Mt. Flume in February.

back to Seasonal Pages Archive