The Appalachian National Scenic Trail traverses more than 2,170 miles across the highest ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Maine. Along the way it crosses through 14 states, eight National Forests, six National Parks, six Inventory and Monitoring networks, a National Wildlife Refuge, three Tennessee Valley Authority properties, one Smithsonian Institute property, and over 280 local jurisdictions. The Trail is managed in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and its 30 affiliated Trail-maintaining clubs under an extraordinary cooperative management system that provides for an annual contribution of nearly 200,000 hours by more than 5,000 volunteers.
The trail's length, north-south alignment, changes in elevation, and numerous peaks and ridges it crosses along this ancient mountain chain creates one of the most biodiverse units of the National Park System.
The Appalachian Trail is uniquely situated to serve as a barometer for the air, water, and biological diversity of the Appalachian Mountains and much of the eastern United States. That is what makes the A.T. an attractive place to explore scientific questions, and which lead to the creation of the A.T. MEGA-Transect. To this end, the National Park Service and ATC, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a host of other agencies and organizations, are focusing their energies on assessing, understanding, and monitoring the vast wealth of natural resources present on the Appalachian Trail’s 270,000-acre land base.
The A.T. MEGA-Transect is built around four fundamental goals:
The Appalachian Trail is monitored through NETN's Vital Sign Monitoring Program. The goals of monitoring along the trail include:
Anticipated uses of monitoring results:
Long Term Monitoring Programs for the Trail
Park Basline Inventories
The Inventory and Monitoring Program provides guidance, funding, and technical assistance for parks to complete a set of 12 baseline, or "basic", natural resource inventories. These basic inventories are common to all parks with significant natural resources, and are intended to provide park managers with the minimum information needed to effectively manage the natural resources of their park.
Appalachian NST Science Stories
Last updated: November 20, 2018