UNC Asheville Environmental Scientists Continue Grant-Funded Research of Rare Mountain Seep Communities along Appalachian Trail

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Reed Rossell, adjunct instructor in UNC Asheville’s Department of Environmental Studies, has completed the second year of his project to document and study the condition of rare seep communities along the Appalachian Trail corridor.

The second year of work was funded with a 2017 grant of $2,588 from the North Carolina Appalachian Trail License Plate Grant Program, which also provided a $5,000 grant last year to document seeps along the trail. These rare wetland plant communities form the headwaters of streams in the mountains and provide habitat for a variety of unique plants and animals, many of which are rare species. 

Rossell and research assistant Noah Poulos, a rising senior in environmental studies, covered a 28-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Indian Grave Gap to Carvers Gap, which included Unaka Mountain and Roan Mountain.  They documented nine seeps along this stretch of trail (approximately one seep for every three miles of trail), most of which were generally small and in relatively good condition.

Three of the seeps had some minor disturbance related to trail erosion which impacted 3-10 percent of the total seep’s area.  Rossell and Poulos also documented one exceptional rich montane seep that was greater than 100 meters in length and included a well-developed herbaceous layer with a high diversity of plant species, including several purple-fringed orchids that were flowering along the periphery of the seep.    

For more information on this research, contact Reed Rossell in the UNC Asheville Environmental Studies Department, 828.251.6441.