14, 2003 15:05 PDT
The following is an excerpt from a
report put out by the GSMNP. First the report and then comments.
INVENTORY AND MONITORING - Keith Langdon, Branch Chief
EXTREME DIS-JUNCTS..AND NEW SPECIES, TOO: We have just received
the final report for some lichen work. Dr. Tor Tonsberg,
lichenologist at the University of Bergen in Norway, spent 10
days in the Smokies last summer with support from Discover Life
in America, and his university. Tonsberg is an authority on
temperate and boreal lichens, especially the crustose species.
Lichens are both an alga and fungi that combine by providing
water and/or nutrients to each other. They dominate large areas
of the Polar Regions.
Tonsberg found 41 species that were previously unrecorded in the
Park, including 10 genera (groups of closely related species)
not previously recorded. Of these 41, eight are new to science!
Additionally there were several extreme range expansions.
Catillaria croatica were only previously from a single site in
the Balkans. There were also a group of species he found that
were located only at high elevations in the Park. Three of these
were previously known only from the wet, lowlands of the Pacific
Northwest; and another species was known only from the Pacific
Northwest and the island of Newfoundland. These extreme dis-junctions
of thousands of miles in distribution are sometimes evidence of
very different past climatic conditions when species had
radically different ranges.
Tonsberg also found more species in the genus Leparia than he
has seen anywhere else in the world - four of the species new to
science were in this genus and he believes there are additional
undescribed taxa. Leparia are called the Dust Lichens, because
it is impossible to wet them with liquid water due the surface
tension caused by dust like particles on the surface. They grow
in the wettest environments.
He did not get to the extensive high elevation areas in the
eastern part of the Smokies, due to its remoteness, but overall,
not bad for 10 days work! We consider the rapid discovery of so
many species in such a short period of time, as further evidence
of how little we know of the natural areas in this country.
The degree to which the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park is a botanical paradise and haven for
invertabrates has been only partially recognized in the past.
The job of identifying all the plants growing in the Smokies is
beyond what a few dedicated humans could do in years past. They
certainly got the ball rolling, but even Arthur Stupka would be
amazed at how much there is. At present, scientists have
identified over 1,500 flowering plants and over 4,000
non-flowering plants. The Park includes over 450 bryophytes.
Animals include 66 species of mammals, 50 species of fish, and
80 species of reptiles and amphibians. In terms of birds, Park
"From the high, exposed peaks, to the warmer, sheltered
lowlands, some 240 species of birds have been found in the park.
Sixty species are year-round residents. Nearly 120 species breed
in the park, including 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many
other species use the park as an important stopover and foraging
area during their semiannual migration."
A conclusion reaached by Park scientists
and outside research, which may well be no exaggeration is:
"No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can
match the park's amazing diversity of plants, animals, and
The ENTS big tree-tall tree reports
place the Smokies at the pinnacle of the tall tree sites in the
Eastern United States and with luck, next week will produce an
extra surprise or two. We have our sites set on sycamore, white
pine, basswood, cucumber magnolia, white ash, and tulip tree for
new records even if from the same trees.
What are we to think about this
explosion in taxa? Well, the first thing that pops into my mind
is the foresighted individuals who saw the Smokies in the 1920s
and early 1930s for what they are. I am humbled thinking about
the uphill battle they faced in convincing the nation of the
value of the Smokies. It causes me to really worry about places
like Zoar Valley that are still at risk and realize how easy it
would be to lose what remains of our natural heritage.
It is easy to undervalue what is
familiar to use, what is under our noses, or what hasn't been
proclaimed special within a hiearchical structure that often
disdains "meddling citizens" overly concerned about
nature. Thankfully the NPS has not fallen prey to narrow
thinking, so we will be free to continue our species
documentations over the next several years. Our NPS is the model
for the rest of the world and of that we can be justly proud.
I wonder how broad the distribution of
plants and animals is that call Zoar Valley home? What can we
learn about species adaptability from the terrace forests that
don't seem to realize that they are setting records? Lots to
Species Update, May 2003
06, 2003 20:01 PDT
Here is an update on the Smokies.
INVENTORY AND MONITORING - Keith Langdon, Branch Chief
ATBI BREAKS 3,000 SPECIES DISCOVERIES: Park entomologist Dr.
Becky Nichols coordinates the volunteer ATBI scientists,
including tracking the discoveries that they make. Every couple
of months she tallies up reports from the couple hundred
researchers who are actively involved in fieldwork. Last week
she did a tally and the list of new discoveries for the Smokies
is 3,106 species!
This total falls into two kinds of discoveries, 2,732 are New
Records for the Park, that is, they were described species that
were never found here before, and 374 that are New to Science.
This last category is where a taxonomic authority believes the
specimen represents a scientifically undescribed species, never
seen before. We often refer to these as a "new
species," and most of these are invertebrates.
This number does not include the many new locations that have
been documented for species already known here. Discovering
which habitats a species is associated with is a prime goal of
the ATBI. Park managers need to know what resources occur in the
Park, but also an idea as to where they occur, how rare they
are, and the ecological functions they perform. Park biologists,
USGS scientists and the many cooperating scientists are testing
efficient methods to answer as much as practical about these
four questions.for each species in the Park.
You don't have to explore the Amazon to discover a species new
to science. Out of the new discoveries for the Park over 12% are
new species. The Smokies are an unusual and complex natural
area, but probably every natural area of any size in the US has
at least a few species that are undescribed to science.. and
undiscovered. Many of them will be rare species in need of
special protection, or scientifically important, perhaps a few
will have bio-medical uses, or just be fascinating in their own
We think we are still a long way from completing the ATBI, but
there is no way to be sure since no other project of this scale
precedes us. Scientific estimates of the number of species on
Earth vary from 3 million to 100 to 200 million. This says a lot
about society's state of knowledge about natural biodiversity.
And, why we must complete the Smokies ATBI as a first step not
only to fully protect the Park's resources but for global
understanding as well. We appreciate the funding from the
Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains
Association, and the many researcher and citizen volunteers that
have made our collective efforts possible thus far.
Canopy Biodiversity Highlights in GSMNP
05, 2004 08:21 PST
I was looking through my intersemester mail today and enjoyed
spied a short
summary on “Tree Canopy Biodiversity in the GSMNP” in the
Quarterly. For more information you may want to check out
there is a
good overview of the myxomycetes project in the GSMNP as part of
Taxa Biodiversity Inventory.