Forest Trail Explorer

US Forest Service and Southern Research Station



What is biodiversity?
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, describes the variety and abundance of all life forms in a given place – plants, animals, and other organisms, such as fungi, lichens, and mosses. Biological diversity also describes the processes, functions, and structures that sustain such variety and allow it to adapt to changing circumstances. Moreover, it encompasses the complexity of gene pools, species, communities, and ecosystems at spatial scales from local to regional to... more »
Acidic Cove Forest

Classifying Communities

Natural communities generally occur in continuously varying patterns. Most of the environmental factors that determine communities vary over continuous gradients. We can best decipher the tremendous complexity of natural communities by categorizing them according to their ecology.
Natural communities are valuable elements of natural diversity for a variety of reasons. They are generally regarded as “coarse filters” for diversity of organisms. By protecting examples of all the natural community... more »
Natural Communities

Ecosystem Threats

The forests of Western North Carolina are threatened by a wide variety of environmental stressors and disturbances, such as insects, disease, invasive species, drought, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms. A stressor is any kind of event or action which, at certain levels, causes stress to organisms; for example, a period of drought. A disturbance is a relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community, or population structure and changes resources, substrate... more »