Inventory and Monitoring Program
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail traverses more than 2,170 miles across the highest ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Maine, in a southwest to northeast gradient. In its traverse, the Trail, which is a unit of the National Park System, crosses through 14 states, 8 National Forests, 6 other units of the National Park System, one National Wildlife Refuge, three Tennessee Valley Authority properties, one Smithsonian Institute property, and 287 local jurisdictions. The Trail is managed in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and its 30 affiliated Trail-maintaining clubs under an extraordinary cooperative management system that provides for an annual contribution of nearly 200,000 hours by more than 5,000 volunteers. The Appalachian Trail passes through six (6) Inventory and Monitoring Program networks, with the Northeast Temperate Network taking the administrative lead:
- Appalachian Highlands (APHN)
- Cumberland-Piedmont (CUPN)
- Eastern Rivers and Mountains (ERMN)
- Mid-Atlantic (MIDN)
- National Capital (NCRN)
- Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)
The Appalachian Trail is uniquely situated to serve as a “barometer” for the air, water, and biological diversity of the Appalachian Mountains and much of the eastern United States. That is what makes the A.T. an attractive place to explore scientific questions, and which lead to the creation of the A.T. MEGA-Transect. To this end, the National Park Service and ATC, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a host of other agencies and organizations, are focusing their energies on assessing, understanding, and monitoring the vast wealth of natural resources present on the Appalachian Trail’s 270,000-acre land base.
The A.T. MEGA-Transect is built around four fundamental goals:
- Monitor -- Collect and synthesize existing and new data on key indicators of environmental health from agencies, organizations, researchers, and citizen scientists;
- Understand -- Transform status and trend data into knowledge through analysis, synthesis, and modeling;
- Inform -- Provide early warning of undesirable conditions or trends, such as climate change, as a means of better protecting the resources and reducing costs of management; and,
- Engage -- Share knowledge by engaging, educating, and involving decision makers, stakeholder organizations, and citizens.