Sanctuary Vegetation Monitoring

Waterlilly

We monitor plants on Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries because they are a critical barometer of ecological changes and are often a target of our management activities.

Vegetation refers to the suite of plants that cover a particular site. The term encompasses all life forms of plants, from sphagnum bogs through old growth forests. Vegetation could be broad leaved or coniferous trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, and mosses.

Natural ecological communities are usually labeled by their major plant species because plants are basic structuring elements upon which all other life depends. Thus red maple or Atlantic White Cedar swamp communities are defined by the dominance of those trees, and a northern hardwood forest community by particular species of hardwood trees.

Massachusetts is blessed with a variety of interesting natural plant communities.

  • The higher elevations of the Berkshires support forests of spruce and fir, a plant community more typical of northern Maine and central Canada.
  • Many of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries in the central and western part of the state are dominated by Sugar Maples, Yellow Birch, American Beech, and Canadian Hemlock.
  • As you go further east, oaks and hickory dominate as they do through much of southern New England and the mid Atlantic states.
  • There are large acreages of pine barrens in the southeast corner of the state.
  • As with the forests, Massachusetts wetlands are similarly diverse and include sphagnum bogs, fens, red maple swamps cattail marshes, and salt marshes.