Monday, 10 July 2006

Soil Resource Inventory of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Anthony Khiel and Doug Thomas. USDA-NRCS, 517 E. Bruce St., Sevierville, TN 37862

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) encompasses 211,000 hectares in the Southern Appalachians Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. This area is one of the most biologically diverse places in North America, and is also the most visited National Park in the United States. Elevations range from 300 to 2000 meters above sea level encompassing a wide range of geologic formations. These formations include Cambrian aged metasedimentary sandstone, phyllite, siltstone, and slate. Crystalline geology of the Pre-Cambrian Basement Complex includes the gneissic formations that are found in small areas of the park. Ordovician aged limestone is also exposed in a few small areas in the GSMNP. Mesic and frigid soil temperature regimes occur in the park. A comprehensive soil resource inventory of the GSMNP has been underway for nearly 8 years. The National Park Service is a unique client with special needs from a soil resource inventory. The amount of scientific research being conducted in a wide range of areas in the GSMNP is immense. The majority of this research can be enhanced with more complete information about the soils that occur in the park. The task of the soil scientists working in the park is to understand the needs of not only these scientific researchers, but also Park Service managers that are charged with monitoring and protecting all the Park's resources. Through the interactions with these scientists and managers, the soil scientists working on this project have developed a soil/landscape modeling approach to the actual inventorying process and have also developed an extensive on-site data set related to the soils found in the GSMNP. This modeling process and data collection was developed from a fully field based approach to the science of inventorying soils. The soil resource inventory along with the soil/landscape models and the accompanying data related to these soils will provide the scientists and managers working in the GSMNP the information they need address their research and management questions for years to come.

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