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Northeastern High-Elevation Areas: Ecological Values and Conservation Priorities

David A. Publicover1,*, Kenneth D. Kimball2, and Catherine J. Poppenwimer1

1Appalachian Mountain Club, PO Box 298, Gorham, NH 03581. 2Appalachian Mountain Club (retired), PO Box 596, Jackson, NH 03846. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 28, Special Issue 11 (2021): 129–155

High-elevation habitats are a limited yet critical component of the northeastern landscape that provide important habitat and climate change adaptation values. This study examines the extent, conservation status, condition, and ecological values of high-elevation areas (defined as greater than 823 m [2700 ft] in elevation) in New England and New York. We identified a total of 765 distinct areas at least 4 ha (10 ac) in size. We assessed these areas for their level of conservation, the extent of development and recent timber harvesting, and 14 ecological values. We developed a quantitative scoring system that allowed us to rank areas for their conservation value and identify the most significant unconserved areas. While 86% of high-elevation land across the region has some form of conservation protection, significant areas remain unconserved, particularly in the Western Mountains region of Maine. We discuss the importance of additional high-elevation conservation to regional climate-change adaptation and the potential for mountains to serve as climate change refugia.

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