Nantucket is fortunate to have a wide variety of habitats on a relatively small island. Each habitat is influenced by many different ecological factors such as soil type, water availability, slope and exposure to salt spray. Several Nantucket habitats are unique to this region, and even the world. Below are descriptions of Nantucket’s most commonly-encountered natural habitats and their associated species.

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Barrier Beaches and Dunes

Nantucket’s barrier beaches and dunes occur at the interface between the land and the surrounding sea, sheltering the island from the open waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Jackson Pt Madaket, KAO

Salt Marshes

Found all along the eastern coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida, salt marshes occupy the constantly fluctuating border between land and sea, being exposed and flooded twice daily by the tide.

Stump Pond

Ponds and Bogs

Nantucket’s ponds and bogs were formed by the retreat of the last glacier that covered the New England area, which began melting approximately 12,000 years ago in response to a gradual warming in the earth’s climate.

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Grasslands and Heathlands

Nantucket’s sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands are important conservation priorities because of their rarity, limited geographical range, and the diversity of uncommon plant and animal species they support.

Detector #1 East

Scrub Oak and Pitch Pine Barrens

Many of Nantucket’s grasslands and heathlands have become overgrown by taller shrubs and trees due to lack of disturbance. These scrub oak and pitch pine barrens provide habitat for several species of rare moths.

Norwood Farm

Hardwood Forests

Visitors to Nantucket in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s described the island as virtually treeless. Although this is no longer the case, hardwood forest communities are still relatively rare and limited to certain areas of the island.