For centuries, the landscape and associated plant and animal life of the Blue Ridge Mountains have been shaped and altered by the forces of nature. Geologic processes, fire, and climatic conditions have each had their influence. Even the monacher "Blue Ridge" originates from environmental factors. Most of Shenandoah’s landscape is forested. In the process of photosynthesis, converting light, water, and minerals into foods used by green plants, trees and other plants give off water vapor that creates a faint haze giving the Blue Ridge its name. Those same environmental factors continue their molding and sculpting today, though often on a time scale that seems to make change invisible.
In more recent times, the interactions of people and the landscape have influenced the landscape and the life that depends on it. Forested land has been cleared and cultivated, roads have been constructed, and homesteads established. Wildfires were stopped and non-native vegetation was introduced. In recent decades, air pollutants have increased the haziness and diminished the number of days of impressive vistas. Pollutants have also degraded the quality of park streams and jeopardized fishery resources. Non-native insects, which have arrived in this country from distant parts of the world, have had and continue to have substantial impacts on the park’s forest ecosystem.
Park staff and cooperating scientists are working to better understand these environmental factors and to find ways to manage those that are adversely impacting the condition of park resources.