Only 50 km west of St. John's on the Island of Newfoundland, the Hawke Hill Ecological Reserve protects a variety of arctic-alpine plants that are rarely encountered in North America this far east and south. The area can, in fact, be called the most easterly alpine barrens in North America.
These open barrens belong to the Maritime Barrens-Southeastern Barrens subregion (1.1 MB) and the reserve captures the best representative area of alpine barrens east of Newfoundland's Long Range Mountains.
The reserve is often covered by cold fog moving in off the Atlantic. Its elevation and weather conditions keep the area cool even in summer, which is why the arctic-alpine plants are able to survive here. Arctic-alpine species found here include diapensia, alpine bearberry, black crowberry, and threetooth cinquefoil.
The reserve also has low-growing plants that are well-adapted to exposed conditions and soils low in nutrients, including fir and spruce tuckamore. In addition, you can see "patterned ground" in open, windswept locations. The natural arrangement of these stones in rough geometric shapes or lines is caused by exposure to severe weather conditions and exaggerated freeze-thaw cycles (especially where winds keep snow cover thin).
The 1.3 km2 Hawke Hill Ecological Reserve was given provisional reserve status in 1990, and fully designated in 1992. As early as the 1970s, a site just north of the current reserve was identified for protection under the International Biological Program. Before a reserve was created, some of the plant life there was destroyed by the construction of a microwave network and associated maintenance roads. This further emphasized the need for a reserve to protect a portion of this unique ecosystem.
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