Preparing for the arrival of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid in TN State Parks

Fall Creek Falls State Park and the South Cumberland Recreational Area are part of the Tennessee State Park system and encompass tens of thousands of acres in the Cumberland Plateau region. These parks provide exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities and beautiful scenery for visitors. These parks also harbor a wide variety of native forest ecosystems and provide habitat for a diverse assemblage of plant and animal species.

The Landscape Analysis Lab (LAL) of the University of the South is working with the State Parks staff at these parks to support management and conservation of these natural resources through scientific research. One of the most pressing problems faced by these parks is the invasion of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, a small insect that attacks Hemlocks and is devastating to both eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana). The Tennessee State Parks of the Cumberland Plateau are near the southernmost extent of the eastern Hemlock’s range and contains large areas of old-growth forest within the coves of the Plateau. Although treatment options are available, costs can become prohibitory given the large number of trees that may be protected.

To determine the best course of action for dealing with the imminent arrival of the adelgid, the Parks must first assess the distribution and abundance of the Hemlocks. The LAL is in the process of developing a geographic information system (GIS) for the Parks which will help in planning and management efforts. A essential component of this GIS is high resolution aerial photography for identifying and mapping Hemlocks which are often located in remote and inaccessible areas of the Parks.

With generous funding from both the Friends of South Cumberland State Recreational Area and the Friends of Fall Creek Falls State Park, two non-profit volunteer organizations dedicated to preserving the Parks, G-Squared (Fayetteville, TN) has acquired high-resolution aerial imagery for both Savage Gulf recreational area and Fall Creek Falls State Park. Only through the generosity of G-Squared, which acquired the imagery “at cost” and donated time and energy to process and prepare the imagery, could this project be completed.

In the next several months, faculty and students at the Landscape Analysis Lab will analyze the imagery, providing the parks with much needed information about the Hemlocks in the Parks. This data will then be used to support the development of a Hemlock Woolly Adelgid treatment and control plan in an effort to save these forest giants for future generations.

Faculty and students interested in using this resource in their own research are encouraged to contact the LAL Lab Manager, Nick Hollingshead.


Friends of Fall Creek Falls State Park

Friends of South Cumberland State Recreational Area