What are Exemplary Natural Communities? Why are they important?

mage from Natural Heritage Bureau 2015 report shows location of exemplary natural community in Mount Sunapee State Park. Click on map to enlarge.

Image from Natural Heritage Bureau report (2015) shows the location of the exemplary natural community system in Mount Sunapee State Park. Click on map to enlarge.

What are Exemplary Natural Communities? Why are they important?

This page provides text from the NH Division of Forest and Lands and images from the Natural Heritage Bureau.

From the Introduction to Natural Communities

Exemplary natural communities represent the best remaining examples of New Hampshire’s biological diversity (a.k.a. biodiversity). NH Natural Heritage identifies and tracks exemplary natural community occurrences to inform conservation decisions.

NH Natural Heritage evaluates the ecological significance of individual natural communities and assigns a quality rank. Quality ranks are a measure of the ecological integrity of a community relative to other examples of that particular type based on size, ecological condition, and landscape context. Natural disturbances such as ice storms, blow downs, and fires, are a critical component of natural system processes and do not diminish a community occurrence ranking. NH Natural Heritage designates most occurrences rare natural community types (such as rich mesic forests), and high quality examples of more common community types, as exemplary. Exemplary natural communities represent the best remaining examples of New Hampshire’s biological diversity (a.k.a. biodiversity). NH Natural Heritage identifies and tracks exemplary natural community occurrences to inform conservation decisions.

NH NHB 2004 landscape

Landcape view from NH Natural Heritage Bureau evaluation (2004) of proposed expansion area at Mount Sunapee State Park

From Natural Communities of New Hampshire (second edition)

Exemplary natural communities represent many of the best remaining examples of New Hampshire’s flora, fauna, and underlying ecological processes.
EXEMPLARY NATURAL COMMUNITIES: The Natural Heritage Bureau places particular emphasis on and gives conservation priority to “exemplary” natural communities. For rare natural communities, all occurrences are considered exemplary. For more common community types, only the best examples are designated exemplary. In general, high-quality natural communities have experienced relatively lit tle human impact. These exceptional conditions are desirable, because they are most likely to support the greatest variety of native species and the ecological processes on which they depend. However, an upland forest or wooded swamp need not be “old growth” to merit exemplary status. They typically have a range of features that distinguish them, such as a full suite of characteristic species, natural regeneration within canopy gaps, multiple age classes, diverse physical structure, abundant snags and fallen woody debris, intact soil processes, and little direct evidence o f human disturbance. Exemplary natural communities represent many of the best remaining examples of New Hampshire’s flora, fauna, and underlying ecological processes. The NH Natural Heritage Bureau identifies and documents these exemplary communities, to track their condition and inform the public of their conservation value.
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