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New Cameras Give Glimpse of Harvard Farm

December 11, 2015
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The view from one of the research cameras showing an open pasture.

Two research webcams (north, south) now aid the study of seasonal change on the Harvard Farm, Harvard Forest's newest research site and a valuable haven for biodiversity in a region dominated by maturing forests. The cameras and electrical work were supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research program.

The Petersham Country Club, as the land was formerly known, had been managed for nearly a century as a golf course. Without mowing and watering, after purchase by Harvard Forest in 2013, the land quickly became a meadow. Within two years, migratory bobolinks were nesting in overgrown fairways.

A team of scientists from Harvard Forest and elsewhere, together with regional conservation groups and farmers, have developed a plan to study plant and wildlife dynamics in this working landscape where cattle graze, trees are harvested, and hay is cut after nesting season.

The HF Woods Crew fenced the property, and local farmers now graze small herds of cattle, following two experimental grazing methods: traditional and intensive rotational. 

In a grid of 27 long-term study plots, scientists track changes in vegetation and soil carbon/nutrients across the property. Additional studies on butterflies, birds, and other species are planned for the coming years.

In 2014, longtime Harvard Forest research collaborator Glenn Motzkin inventoried the vascular plants on the Farm, identifying 364 species—31 not previously documented on Forest property—bringing the total plant species count at Harvard Forest to 840.
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