The Smokies are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world! In fact the park contains more than 19,000 documented species-though some scientists believe an additional 80,000 to 100,000 species may be found here. According to the National Park Service, The Smokies has most biodiversity out of all of the National Parks in the country.
You might be wondering why The Smokies boasts such biodiversity. The answer lies in our mountains, weather and climate. The mountains were believed to be formed somewhere between two and three hundred million years ago! This means that the Great Smoky Mountains are some of the oldest mountains in the world. Near 100 native species of trees call the Smokies home which is more than any other National Park. 25% of the forest growth is considered old growth meaning the trees have been allowed to grow for 100+ years undisturbed. This actually provides a unique eco system within the park. Over 1,500 flowering plant species have been found to live in the park. This park is also the salamander capital of the world, housing over 30 species of salamanders including one endemic species, found only in the high elevations of the Park. The Jordan’s Red-cheeked Salamander is found nowhere else in the world! In addition to old growth and salamanders, the park is home to more than 200 species of birds, 68 species of mammals, 67 native fish species, 39 species of reptiles, and 43 species of amphibians. Mollusks, millipedes, and mushrooms also grow abundantly here.
Extensive work and research is being done to preserve the biodiversity of the Smokies. Environmental factors such as air quality, water quality, and non-native species are monitored. If you would like information on how you can help The Great Smoky Mountains National Park maintain its incredible biodiversity please visit our friends at https://www.friendsofthesmokies.org