• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Collaborating with researchers & partners

 
State of Tennessee Clean Air TN banner.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation works for clean air.

TDEC photo.

The problem of air pollution isn’t limited to the skies over Class I areas such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and neither is solving it. Many governmental, non-profit, and educational groups are involved with the park's efforts to monitor air quality. These include the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the Tennessee Valley Authority, state governments of North Carolina and Tennessee, and local air programs such as Knox County Air Pollution Control and environmental groups.

 
A USGS project collects falling leaves, which will be tested for mercury.

A USGS project collects falling leaves in the park. Researchers will test the leaves for mercury, which the leaves can absorb from polluted air.

NPS photo.

Academic researchers, including PhD students and their professors, are vital collaborators. They conduct research on air pollution and air quality, including these past and ongoing permitted research projects:

  • Acid deposition impacts on streams, aquatic life, bird productivity, and Frasier fir and red spruce trees
  • Hiker health, air quality, traffic congestion, and emissions
  • IMPROVE visibility modeling to measure how particles of pollution scatter light
  • Inventory and Assessment of Night Sky Quality: how dark is it?
  • Lichen inventory and monitoring
  • Look Rock Supersite—monitoring of many air quality measures at high elevations
  • Mercury in precipitation, and its impacts on the park's biota
  • Modeling acid deposition levels across the mountainous park
  • Mountain Acid Deposition Program (MADPro) to monitor the acidity of cloudwater
  • Nitrogen studies: how levels vary and how it impacts spruce-fir forests
  • Ozone damage on cutleaf coneflowers, tall milkweed, wildflowers, and eastern hardwood forests
  • UV-B damage during forest tree reproduction and pollination

What we learn from these monitoring and research forms the foundation for policy to clean the air. Go on to Applying air quality results for cleaner air or return to Meet the Managers.

Did You Know?

Great Horned Owls can be heard most often in January and February

More than 240 species of birds have been found in the park. Sixty species are year-round residents. Nearly 120 species breed in the park, including 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many other species use the park as an important stopover and foraging area during their semiannual migration. More...