Eastern box turtle. Photo courtesy of Discover Life in America
An epic biodiversity project in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park plugs away without fanfare or applause. This story from Knoxville's Metro Pulse highlights the excitement of the search, the agony of the lack of interest and funding, the difficulties and the joys of a long-term project to know our mountains.
From the Metro Pulse
...All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, now in its 14th year, is an attempt to count and catalog every species of anything living in the Great Smoky Mountains—and to understand how they relate to one another.
...The number of known species in the park has nearly doubled, from 9,511 to 17,527, and research has so far identified 910 species new to science. The count includes about 3,000 different kinds of beetle, alone. More than 1,000 scientists have been involved, either in field or lab work. And 19 sample plots scattered around the park’s 800 square miles have been plumbed in detail from the soil to the treetops. The Great Smoky Mountains is often touted as the most biodiverse national park in America, and its range of elevations and habitats is the reason.
...But the work is far from finished, and it is getting harder. The funding that got the ATBI started has largely fallen off, and people to do the hands-on research are increasingly difficult to come by. It turns out that for all its scope, the kind of work the project demands is not, in a lot of ways, the kind of work that modern science most values and rewards. ...
For more information about the project (including a cool species counter), go to the Discover Life in America website.
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