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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Environmental Factors

Among the oldest mountains in the world and the highest in the Appalachian chain, the Smokies have been both a daunting obstacle and a source of inspiration since the earliest people set foot on the mountains' slopes. But long before humans arrived, geologic processes, climatic shifts, weather, and fire shaped this environment, producing an ever-changing ecosystem. More recently, human-caused factors such as air and water pollution and non-native species have had a significant impact on natural resources-both here and worldwide.

The further impacts on the park of ten million human visits each year are only just beginning to be measured and mitigated. Scientists are striving to better understand these impacts on the park's ecosystem. Park staff carefully monitor threats such as air pollution and destructive non-native species and endeavor to implement proactive measures to preserve the park's valuable resources.

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National Park Spotlight
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Featured Wildlife
Maine Puffins
Maine Puffins


Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.