The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to some of the richest temperate deciduous forests in the world. We credit this honor in large part to the last Ice Age. During the last Ice Age, thousands and thousands of plants and animal species moved to the Southern Appalachians because ice did not cover our mountains the way they did in the Northern Appalachians. They faced a near certain extinction without this refuge.
After the Ice Age, some species traveled back north but many species stayed, giving us the high biodiversity we see still thriving today.
I have a nickname for our portion of the Appalachians. I call her the Blue Ridge Babushka. Why? Well, because she is old. The Appalachians are the oldest mountain range in the world. Of course this is contested by some people but the vast majority of scientific consensus states that we are in fact the most ancient mountains in existence today. They formed during the collision of the plates in the Ordovician Period about 480 million years ago. Impressive, eh?
Scientists also found crystalline rocks in our region that were dated up to 1.1 billion years old! The pressure and heat necessary to create crystalline rocks would have annihilated any and all primitive life forms in the area at that time. The time period I am referring to is called the Precambrian Age. The Blue Ridge Babushka, indeed.
A bit of fun trivia is that we are one of only two temperate rain forests in America. Yes, you read that right. Rainforest. The extra rain creates an exciting variety of flora and blankets our woodlands in purifying soft mosses. A forest rich in mosses, lichens and ferns are an outstanding indication of good air quality as they quite literally filter and purify our air. So if you find yourself amidst our greenery, breathe deeply, it’s good for you.
The Appalachian temperate rainforest includes the Nantahala National Forest, Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. So the next time you find yourself in one of our great national parks, take a moment to appreciate the fact that you are standing in a rainforest.
Both temperate and tropical rainforests are crucial to our earth’s climate. They literally stabilize it by helping to regulate the earth’s temperature and weather patterns. They are precious. Unfortunately, 55% of our rainforests have been destroyed due to deforestation which is 100% human driven. Farming, logging, mining, building of dams and plantations are all huge contributing factors.
I moved here to Leicester for many reasons but most importantly it is because these mountains feel like home to me. They are also the literal home the hundreds of thousands of species just like in every other habitat that is threatened around the world.
What can we do?
- We can support companies that operate in a way that minimizes damage to the environment.
- Establish parks to protect our forests and rainforests.
- Purchase foods grown in a sustainable way. (Vote with your dollars)
- Teach others about the importance of our forests.
- Reach out to your state legislators and let them know how you feel.
- Learn about conservation issues within your own community and start there.
- Volunteer at conservation projects, join a conservation organization.
For more information you can follow the links provided below which will give you wonderful ideas on how to lower your impact on this world we all share.
Written by Kate Randall