Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In collaboration with the U. S. National Park Service, we are inventorying insects within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). We are currently running 16 Malaise insect traps to inventory insects in two main habitat types: mixed deciduous cove forests and old-growth short-leaf pine stands. Our work is a pilot study for an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) that the GSMNP is currently organizing.

Photograph of Malaise Traps 153 and 154 in GSMNP.
Photograph -- Two Malaise traps (numbers 153 and 154) in an old-growth cove on Porters Creek Trail. Note the large diameter of the yellow poplar tree on the left and the lush ground-cover that includes numerous species of spring wildflowers. Since this photograph was taken, we have put electric fences around all traps within the park to protect them from bears. [Photograph by John Pickering, 10 April, 1997].

Study Design
We have two traps in each of eight 1-hectare plots. Four plots are along two dry ridges near Top-of-the-World, Tennessee, in the northwest section of the park. These plots are in old-growth short-leaf pine stands that formerly were in a fire maintained ecosystem. However, fire has been suppressed in these stands for many years and they have not been burned since before the park was founded in the 1920's. After collecting for at least a year, we propose to burn two of these plots.

The other plots are in four mesic coves in the northeast part of the park in North Carolina: Porters Creek, Ramsey Cascade, Meigs Prong and Fish Camp Prong, the first two of which are old-growth coves, and the latter two contain mature second-growth that is 70+ years-old. The Porters Creek and Fish Camp Prong plots are matched in soil type, elevation, aspect and slope. Similarly, but at approximately 500 meters higher elevation, the Ramsey Cascade and Meigs Prong plots are matched with each other.

Thus, our inventory will allow us to compare (1) the xeric ridge with the mesic cove communities, (2) short-leaf pine stands before and after fire, and (3) the communities in old- versus second-growth cove forests.

Future Plans
Trapping started in April, 1997, and is supported primarily by a gift from the Friends of the GSMNP to inventory selected taxa of parasitic wasps in the superfamily Ichneumonoidea. It will serve as part of Elizabeth Skillen's doctoral research. We are seeking additonal funding and ultimately propose to inventory all species of insects within the park as part of the GSMNP-ATBI. Individuals wishing to work with us in the GSMNP should contact Keith Langdon, who coordinates the park's Inventorying and Monitoring Program, Chuck Parker, an aquatic biologist of the Biological Resources Division of the U. S. Geological Survey who is stationed within the park, or John Pickering, a collaborating insect ecologist at the University of Georgia.