Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

Clouds over green mountains
View from the Bunion, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

NPS Photo.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park comprises approximately 2,000 km2 (772 mi2 ) of almost entirely forested land in the southern Appalachian Mountains, divided between North Carolina and Tennessee. The park is characterized as one of the richest centers of biodiversity in the eastern U.S., due in part to its complex geology, topographic relief, varied microclimates, and abundant rainfall.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2018

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment for Great Smoky Mountains National Park was published in 2018. National Park Service staff worked together with Western Carolina University to assess the conditions of eleven resource topics in the park:

- Air quality

- Soil quality

- Water quality

- Invasive species

- Focal species and communities

- At-risk biota

- Consumptive use

- Landscape condition

- Extreme disturbance events

- Acoustic environment

- Night skies

Overall, resource conditions in the park are stable, but significant concern and declining trends exist for some categories. Acoustic environment and landscape condition were the two resources in good to moderate condition. Invasive species and soil quality had conditions of moderate to significant concern. Air quality, at-risk biota, consumptive use, and night skies had conditions of significant concern. Water quality and focal species communities’ indicators were largely mixed in their condition scores, and extreme disturbance events had an unknown condition. Great Smoky Mountains National Park experiences some of the highest measured air pollution of any national park in the U.S. Acid deposition has been shown to cause measurable effects on ecosystem structure and function, and the high levels of sulfate and nitrate wet deposition recorded in the park easily exceed ecological thresholds. In addition, stream water acidification and invasive species are also concerns within the park.

Information provided in this assessment will help identify future data needs that could help park management plan for and focus future sampling efforts, which will further enhance existing knowledge of the natural resources within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: August 15, 2022


  • Site Index