Restoration of Native Vegetation & Landscapes
All over the park, we see landscapes in flux: once-logged forests are maturing, streams that were straightened are meandering, and homesites once cleared for gardens and yards are growing over with brambles and flowers. The story of the Great Smoky Mountains’ forests and fields intertwines with the story of human settlement here. Once the human disturbance is gone, native vegetation often returns unaided. Sometimes, though, park employees need to actively manage landscapes that have been altered by past (and current) human activity, in order to restore native species and the habitat they provide.
To restore landscapes, vegetation managers look to the human story of disturbance, and to similar landscapes that can tell them which native species existed before logging, farming, clearing, or draining. Then they collect seeds from native plants—often a tricky, time consuming business—from nearby places in the park, and mix them so plants are represented in the right proportions.
Restoring native species is important for several reasons:
Some landscapes currently being restored or re-vegetated:
Return to Meet the Managers: Issue 1.
Did You Know?
An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid 1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls. More...