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Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect

The Appalachian Trail’s (A.T.) 250,000 acre corridor and surrounding landscape are rich in natural and cultural resources. Running primarily along the Appalachian highlands, Trail lands protect headwater streams for major east coast watersheds. These high elevation lands also host a living catalog of hundreds of rare species, some of which are Federal or state protected threatened and endangered species.

The A.T. is also receiving attention for its role as an ecological connector that helps to link otherwise disconnected conservation lands. In 2005, National Park Service partners developed the A.T. Vital Signs report that looked at the status of key environmental indicators of Trail lands. The report provided the impetus to convene a gathering of scientists in 2006 to explore the opportunity of using Trail lands as a large, collaborative environmental monitoring and research effort.

This collaborative effort earned the name Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect. A transect is a scientific monitoring term involving measurements taken along a line, and this transect – from Maine to Georgia – is certainly a significant undertaking. In 2008, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) produced a report describing the program, and then in 2009, the National Park Service completed the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Natural Resource Management Plan which describes the important resources of the Trail and suggests management actions.

The ATC, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service as well as other agencies and organizations work cooperatively to understand the status of these resources and to engage volunteers (citizen scientists) in monitoring natural resources. Monitoring projects are aimed at assisting cooperative management partners in the development of effective adaptive management strategies, ensuring the long-term health of significant resources. A.T. lands also host numerous cultural heritage sites.

For more information about the Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect, see http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/conservation/natural-cultural-resource-management).  In summary, the goals are to:

  • Monitor - Collect new and existing data on key indicators of environmental health with citizen scientists, organizations, researchers, and agencies;
  • Understand - Transform data into knowledge about the status and trends through analysis, synthesis, and modeling;
  • Inform and Engage - Share this knowledge to engage, educate, and involve decision makers, stakeholders and the American public in managing and protecting the A.T. environment. Seek to attain the goals of existing natural resource and environmental legislation and make sound decisions for positive change.
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