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Hikers in the Smokies will soon be able to name a new crop of critters while strolling through Gatlinburg nature trails. Over the past 15 years, researchers with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory have discovered over 18,000 species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Already known as one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, scientists now estimate that there are between 60,000 and 80,000 different species living in the Smokies. Since 1998, the ATBI has been pursuing a monumentally ambitious task: cataloguing every single living organism in The Smoky Mountains National Park.
According to the official Smokies Species Tally, the ATBI has identified 18,038 different species living in the Smokies. Out of all these organisms, the ATBI found 7,636 species that had never been identified in the park. Even more exciting, the ATBI has discovered 923 organisms that have never been identified anywhere else in the world. Among these previously unidentified organisms are 59 types of beetles, 26 species of crustaceans and 42 varieties of spiders.
An Important Mission
The ATBI’s work is extremely important for the long term preservation of the Great Smoky Mountain’s biodiversity and the majesty of Gatlinburg nature. The more park managers know about the species living in the Smokies and how they relate to each other, the more they can do to ensure the continued survival of these species. Furthermore, the ATBI’s research also provides crucial data on climate change, pollution, acid rain, and other global factors relevant to both humans and animals.
The ATBI is coordinated by a small nonprofit organization known as Discover Life In America. The DLIA works with the National Park Service to get funding and additional resources for the ATBI. Additionally, the DLIA presents the ATBI’s findings to the public at a yearly conference and through educational programs designed for both children and adults.
With an annual research budget of $200,000, the DLIA uses some creative fundraising techniques to raise money for the ATBI. The DLIA hosts the Great Smoky Mountains Salamander Ball, a yearly masquerade ball and fundraiser based on a children’s book with the same name written by Lisa Hortsman. At this popular costume party, guests dress up as their favorite Smoky Mountains animal for a night of live music and family fun.
The DLIA also offers opportunities for donors to pick the name of new species discovered in the Smokies. For between $2,500 and $10,000, individuals will receive a photograph of the species they named and a copy of the scientific journal in which the organism is described. In 2006, a new species of springtail was dubbed “Cosberella lamaralexanderi” in honor of Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and his ongoing support for scientific research in the Smokies. This microscopic species bears a checkerboard pattern like the plaid shirts Senator Alexander is known to wear while on the campaign trail.
Interested in seeing the Smoky Mountain’s stunning wildlife for yourself? Visit My Smokies has compiled a list of the top Gatlinburg nature trails. Make the most out of your visit to the Smoky Mountains by staying over in a beautiful cabin conveniently located in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville. Our Smoky Mountain cabins offer fully-equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and spectacular mountain views. Book a cabin for your next trip to the Smokies today!