Spruce / Northern Hardwood Ecotone long-term monitoring on Whitetop Mountain
Through a partnership with North Carolina State University, we are conducting long term monitoring of the spruce / northern hardwood ecotone along an elevational transect on Whitetop Mountain. With remnant boreal ecosystems classified as one of the most threatened ecosystems in the southeastern US. The spruce forests along the summit of Whitetop Mountain remain as small patches of boreal habitat for several dependent species. These habitat patches occur on the highest mountains in the Southern Appalachian range (>4000 ft.) and are characterized by spruce-fir forest dominated by Balsam Fir, Red Spruce, and Northern Hemlock. As predicted warming trends are likely to increase the elevational restrictions of fir and spruce species, further decreasing available habitat for high-elevation breeding wildlife, long term monitoring can help document the possible changes along the ecotone.