Date of Publication


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Environmental Science & Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Amatangelo, Assistant Professor


Plant functional traits allow ecologists to assess the ways floral communities respond to abiotic and biotic factors. By analyzing these traits, we can then ultimately assume the factors that control species distribution and community composition. Here, I analyzed plant traits (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, and leaf dry matter content) of four herbaceous plants found growing atop Mt. Washington, NH in sheltered snowbanks. They are also found in the sub-alpine understory. I examined baseline differences between the alpine and sub-alpine sites, analyzed differences in intraspecific variability, and also measured the sub-alpine sites’ trait differences associated with canopy closure (light availability). Comparing plant traits along this elevational gradient, from alpine to sub-alpine using measures of intraspecific variability, allows us to investigate any underlying effects. These include differences in air temperature, light availability, and solar radiation. As a result, compared to the sub-alpine, we observed lower SLA, smaller leaf area, and higher LDMC in the alpine snowbed. Further analysis of the sub-alpine with a comparison of light availability also revealed differences in SLA, LDMC, and leaf area for some species. Overall, intraspecific variability detailed each populations’ underlying response to environmental conditions. This approach will be critical to continue studying in terms of expected environmental changes to occur in the region.

Available for download on Friday, June 21, 2019