About Field Sites
Harvard Forest (HARV) is a terrestrial NEON field site located approximately 65 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts in the county of Worcester. The 48.1 km2 (11,900 acre) site has sampling plots within Harvard Forest (managed by Harvard University and the Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program) and the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed (managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation). Regionally, HARV represents a typical northeastern rural/wildland, anchoring an urban-to-rural gradient from suburban areas outside Boston to the wildlands throughout New England, Maine, and New Hampshire. The site's dominant land cover is northern hardwood and coniferous forest, with some areas used for agriculture. HARV is located in the Northeast Domain (D01), which encompasses the New England and northern Eastern Seaboard states along with the northern end of the Appalachian range. D01 includes one other terrestrial site and one aquatic site. HARV is located near the Lower Hop Brook (HOPB) aquatic site.  
The climate at HARV is cool and temperate. The mean annual temperature hovers around 7.4°C (45°F), with the coldest months averaging around -6.6°C (20°F) and the warmest 20°C (68°F). Precipitation is constant for the year and averages approximately 1080 mm (42.5 in.) per year. Warming temperatures in the northeast have shifted the average winter temperature up 2.5°C (5°F) since the 1960s, resulting in an earlier onset of spring weather.  
Harvard Forest is geologically uniform and consists of metamorphic Connecticut Valley Belt schist and gneiss from the Lower Devonian. The metamorphic bedrock is covered with till and glacial fluvial materials.    
The soils at HARV are part of the subgroups Oxyaquic and Dystudepts. Till and glacial fluvial soils are common at the site. The soils are typically low in clay, with coarse-loamy, loamy-skeletal, sandy, or sandy-skeletal particle size control sections with some alluvial and colluvial deposits.  
Harvard Forest is located in the Quabbin Watershed, which is home to one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the United States. This area tends to have high spring flows due to spring snowmelt and lower flows during the summer and fall. Most streams are intermittent. The main stream, the east branch of the Swift River, cuts through the Harvard Forests and is a large contributor to the Quabbin Reservoir. 
Located in the Worcester ecoregion, vegetation is consistent with those of transition hardwoods-white pine-hemlock forests. Due to historical logging and hurricanes, the forest is second-growth and many of the trees are under 100 years old. The dominant vegetation is regenerating Eastern Deciduous temperate forest comprised of red oak (Quercus rubra), red maple (Acer rubrum), and white pine (Pinus strobus). Understory shrubs, trees, ferns, and flowering herbs are common in areas with higher moisture.  
Wildlife typically found in the Harvard Forests include white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, beavers, raptors, migratory birds, salamanders, and turtles.  
Past Land Management and Use
The nearby town of Peteresham was settled in the early 18th century, a time in which land was extensively cleared and utilized for farming and agriculture. The land was then abandoned and native northeastern hardwoods began to regenerate. Since 1907, the Harvard Forest has focused primarily on research and education; however, timber harvest remained significant in the first 30 years. The Quabbin Reservoir, which acts as the main water supply for the Boston area, began construction in 1930 and was not complete until 1939.   
Current Land Management and Use
Established in 1907, Harvard Forest has been focused on research, education, recreation, and forest management. The Harvard Forest utilizes a "Wildlands and Woodlands" framework in which the majority of the land base is available for flexible research and recreational use, but 600-700 acres are designated as low-impact wildland reserves or forest management woodlands. As part of its mission of furthering ecological research, Harvard Forest has also been established as a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, ForestGEO forest dynamics plot, and NEON site. 
NEON Site Establishment
The Domain 01 support facility in Fitchburg, MA was constructed in June 2013. Terrestrial observational sampling at HARV began in October 2014, but plot establishment (the process of selecting, ground-truthing and building out plots) was not completed until July 2016. Due to ongoing research occurring at Harvard Forest, plots were selected to avoid any conflicts with existing research. Tower instrumentation was not fully complete until March 2017. The 2006 National Land Cover Database (NLCD) was selected for stratification because of the consistent and comparable data availability across the United States. TOS Tower Plots were allocated according to a spatially balanced design in and around the NEON tower airshed.
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 01. NEON.DOC.003884vB
 Jenkins, J., Motzkin, G., & Ward, K. (2008). The Harvard forest flora : an inventory, analysis and ecological history. Petersham (Mass.): Harvard University.
 Parizek, C. Donal. (2018). NEON Site Level Plot Summary, Harvard Forest (HARV), May 2018. https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/HARV_Soil_SiteSumm…
 O'Keefe J., Plotkin, & A. Foster, D. (2008) The Harvard Forest Land Use Master Plan for the Second Century: Harvard Forest
 Michael SanClements, Robert H Lee, E D Ayres, Keli Goodman, Morgan Jones, David Durden, Katherine Thibault, Rommel Zulueta, Joshua Roberti, Claire Lunch, Adrian Gallo, Collaborating with NEON, BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 2, February 2020, Page 107, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa005.
 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University
 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 39 m (128 ft) tall with six measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower, a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower, and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
One phenocam is attached to the top and the bottom of the tower. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on either of the images below.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
Massachusetts DCR Division of Water Supply Protection
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Field site located in the Quabbin Resevoir - Massachusetts DCR Division of Water Supply Protection . This property is very limited to additional research - researchers should take necessary coordinations with the DCR.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 01 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
166 Boulder Drive, Suite 101
Fitchburg, MA 01420
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Deciduous Forest, Evergreen Forest, Mixed Forest, Woody Wetlands
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
Megapit Soil Family
Coarse-loamy over sandy or sandy-skeletal - mixed - semiactive - frigid Oxyaquic Dystrudepts
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D01 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in MA