Forest ThreatNet

Volume 11, Issue 2 - March/April 2017

“Seasoned” Researcher Presents at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Science Colloquium

Burned log and emerging wildflowersThe rich biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers unique research opportunities for numerous scientists and students each year. In turn, the Park hosts an annual Science Colloquium to facilitate the communication of research findings to scientists, managers, and the public. Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Steve Norman was among the presenters at the 2017 Colloquium held on March 23 in Gatlinburg, TN. With colleagues Bill Hargrove and Bill Christie, he has used the satellite-based ForWarn monitoring and assessment tool to track seasonal climate and vegetation change in the park. The researchers analyzed 16 years of weekly data on vegetation greenness levels and determined that the timing of spring green-up and fall brown-down in the Park can vary by about 2.5 weeks each year. Elevation, aspect (the direction a slope faces), and disturbances influence the timing of green-up and brown-down, but weather is also an important factor: spring warmth accelerates green-up, while early fall warmth delays brown-down. Monitoring seasonal changes across a landscape, known as land surface phenology, is important for anticipating spring flowering, wildlife movement and behavior, and fall foliage, as well as understanding ecosystem productivity and disturbance impacts, explained Norman.

Pictured: Spring wildflowers begin to emerge in an area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park that burned in fall 2016. Park managers can use land surface phenology information to understand timing of seasonal phenomena, ecosystem productivity, and disturbance impacts. Photo by Steve Norman, U.S. Forest Service.

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