FORECO Daily: Other -ologists.

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We spent about an hour on Friday night with Dr. John Morse’s Stoneflies, Caddisflies, and Mayflies class next to the Chattooga River in SC to see how the other -ologists live. Another engaged class out late on a Friday to collect samples. I was astounded by the sheer number and volume of macroinvertebrates collected.

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FORECO Daily: Buck Creek

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Because of its unusual geology and serpentine soil with a skewed Ca:Mg ratio, Buck Creek lacks a closed tree canopy and supports an astounding plant community that includes many grasses as well as several locally endemic species–meaning that they’ve been seen nowhere else on Earth.  These plants can tolerate the high levels of heavy metals and the high levels of magnesium in the soil. Prescribed fire by the US Forest Service has helped restore this site and allow the many understory plants to proliferate. 

FORECO Daily: Cuthbert’s Turtlehead

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Rare habitats mean rare species. Cuthbert’s turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii) has longer and larger leaves than others in its genus, and it’s restricted to mountain bog habitats like this one in Panthertown Valley. In the past, bogs were regularly filled or grazed, leaving rare species like the bog turtle and Cuthbert’s turtlehead without a home. Now these wetlands are recognized for their conservation value and are gaining better protection.

FORECO Daily: Spot the sundew!

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Gorgeous red Sphagnum moss and tiny, carnivorous sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) make their home in the Panthertown bog. In the southern Appalachians, which were never glaciated, bogs form where hydrology permits. These open habitats are too wet, with deep peaty soil, to support trees, but the open sunlight and consistent moisture create space for small plants. Sundews are carnivorous plants, trapping small insects on their modified leaves that have sticky glands that you can see in the picture. In this way the plants survive despite living in deep organic soils that are poor in available nutrients. Bogs are fragile places that cover very little land area–one of the reasons for the recently protected Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge!

FORECO Daily: Disturbance happens.

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Thin vegetation mats grow in shallow depressions on granitic dome communities south of the Asheville basin. Soil accumulates in shallow depressions, collecting rainwater and providing habitat for spikemosses like Selaginella tortipela. Over time, soil and nutrients accumulate, and grasses and shrubs gain a foothold. These are fragile communities, at ricsk from trampling, ice, and flooding. Here on Little Green, a sizeable mat has torn off, rolling up like sod or shag carpet and leaving the depression bare and exposed where succession will start anew. This cycle of succession and disturbance keeps these granite domes open.

FORECO Daily: August Azalea

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If you had told me we’d find an azalea blooming in the mountains in August, I wouldn’t have believed you. However, we discovered swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) still flowering in the river scour areas in Panthertown Valley. If you look closely, you can see the sticky glands on the flowers’ corolla, but that’s a poor substitute for coming across them yourself and breathing in their sweet fragrance.