|Great Smoky Mtns. Natl. Park|
Audubon did it for birds, everyone adores flowers, and millions of visitors appreciate the chance to see a black bear in its natural setting. But some unsung heroes of biodiversity at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are finally getting their due. Because science has long touted the interdependence of every part of an ecosystem, now even the humble snails, spiders and flies are finally being counted.
|Twin Creeks Science and Education Center
at Great Smoky Mtns. Natl. Park
“There’s always new species being discovered,” said Witcher, “The more you know about something, the more you’re able to protect it.” Teams will start collection days starting again in April. And throughout the year, they gather monthly to sort the arthropods before sending them for study to scientists around the world. Witcher says scientists oversee the program so that even high school science students can participate in some steps if they’re disciplined enough to follow the protocols. For more than a dozen years now, the project has served as a model in studying biodiversity. You can learn more about the DLA’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory here.
While butterflies and bees make popular tourist photos, scientists are also noting simple caddisflies whose young survive in clear mountain streams. Witcher said when discussing appreciation for the tiniest creatures, “You don’t know what it might be a cure for or a solution for. What makes up an ecosystem is all the parts.”