CELS Researchers Complete a 5-yr Study of the Appalachian Trail

New satellite-based model will aid management of trail

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

appalachian-trialA team of researchers led by a University of Rhode Island professor has completed a five-year study of the Appalachian Trail and developed a satellite-based system for monitoring and forecasting ecological conditions along the trail. One of its initial conclusions is that the invasive species tree-of-heaven is expected to expand northward to New England due to climate change.

Yeqiao Wang, a URI professor of terrestrial remote sensing, says that his team’s research combining satellite-based data with ground-based ecological monitoring will be useful in the management of the lands along the Appalachian Trail.

“But our tools aren’t just about managing the trail; it’s about the entire eastern United States,” he said. “We study the trail as a representative megatransect to reflect the ecological conditions of the eastern U.S.”

In a paper published this month in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Wang and URI colleagues Peter August and John Clark demonstrate the use of the new monitoring system by focusing on the current status and predicted expansion of tree-of-heaven, a problematic invasive species that was introduced to the United States in 1784 for ornamental planting. Native to China, the tree has been found to suppress native species and disperse widely by releasing vast quantities of airborne seeds that colonize gaps in forest canopies.

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