A decade ago, scientists decided it would be smart to know exactly what plants and animals populate America's most-visited national park, the Great Smokies.
Today they're 16,570 species into the nation's largest biological roundup, known in science-talk as the “All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory” or ATBI. Maybe twice as many species are yet to be found, but that's just a guess.
The casual visitor, jockeying to park at a crowded Smokies overlook, might expect the staff to already know everything that prowls, growls and photosynthesizes in its 521,000 acres.
But secrets abound. And finding the new forms of life will help managers confront the growing threats to one of North America's richest ecosystems.
Researchers in the Great Smokies National Park have already found 890 species entirely new to science.