But if you are interested in flora and fauna, it is easy to get off the beaten paths and find much of interest. The Smokies encompass 814 square miles and that's a lot of space. But, to bring out its fabulous biodiversity, it is instructive to compare the Smokies with my home state, Ohio, which at 41,222 square miles is nearly 51 times larger than Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There has been a well-publicized All Taxa Biological Inventory going on in the Smokies for thirteen years; an effort to catalog as many species of living things as possible. To date, this study has found nearly 18,000 species, but researchers think that is just the tip of the iceberg, and perhaps five times that number of organisms remain to be found. A few examples of the Smokies' fantastic diversity:
Spiders - 533 (Ohio has 650)
Beetles - 2,518 (Ohio? not sure but likely not that many more)
Butterflies and moths - 1,871 (Ohio has around 2,500)
Plants - 1,685 (Ohio has about 1,850 natives; ca. 3,000 if you toss in non-natives)
Amphibians - 43 (Ohio has 38)
Birds - 247 (421 have been documented in Ohio)
Fishes - 76 (134 for Ohio)
Mammals - 65 (54 for Ohio)
Reptiles - 40 (44 for Ohio)
Another big impact comes courtesy of our cars, trucks, and factories. Air pollution, at least on bad days, has reduced visibility from the high peaks by as much as 80% from what it was five or six decades ago. The smog also casts a pall on the overall landscape, muting colors and dimming vistas with haze. Airborn chemicals also harm vegetation, especially acid rain.
More to follow...