Appalachian has proposed the establishment of the Southern Appalachian Environmental Research and Education Center (SAEREC). The mission of the Center focuses on the reconciliation of local and regional economic development with conservation of those ecosystems that make economic development feasible. SAEREC will examine:

  • The use of natural watersheds as functional sampling units to monitor and assess the presence and quality status of geological, biological and hydrological resources in western North Carolina;
  • The impact of alternative development patterns on natural resources;
  • How natural resources, such as water quality, landscape, wildlife, and biodiversity, influence ecosystem services, cultural values, economic development and quality of life ;
  • The relationships between our natural, human, economic, and built systems; and
  • The contribution of scientific education and literacy of southern Appalachian citizens, particularly concerning natural ecosystems, economic development and innovative ways to concurrently conserve and develop.

Current Environmental Research Projects

Faculty and students, including both graduate and undergraduate, participate in research on air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental history, climate change, invasive species ecology, eco-toxicology, environmental history and culture from the Departments of Anthropology; Biology; Chemistry; Economics, Geography and Planning; Geology; Health, Leisure and Exercise Science, History; Management; and Physics and Astronomy.

These research efforts examine the use of:

Hydraulic and Hydrologic Dynamics

Faculty from Geography and Planning as well as from Geology utilize geographic information science (GIScience), remote and direct sensing and computer modeling technology to explore watershed and flood dynamics in steep slope environments, the effects of flood control systems on riparian systems. In addition faulty examine the impacts of hydrology and aquifer recharge, the interactions between groundwater and surface water including the role that groundwater discharge plays in controlling stream temperatures and salinity. Finally, faculty are examining hydrology and land-atmosphere interactions.

  • Colby, J.D., and Dobson, J.G., 2010. Flood Modeling in the Coastal Plains and Mountains: Analysis of Terrain Resolution. Natural Hazards Review, 11(1):19-28.
  • Bishop, M.P., Colby, J.D., Luvall, J.C., Quattrochi, D.A., and, Rickman, D.L., 2004 "Passive Remote Sensing in Mountain Environments." In GIScience and Mountain Geomorphology, edited by M.P. Bishop and J. F. Shroder Jr., Praxis Scientific Publishing and Springer Verlag
  • Colby, J.D., 2003. "Physical Characterization of the Navarro Watershed in Costa Rica for Hydrologic Simulation." In GIS for Water Resources and Watershed Management, edited by J.G. Lyon.London : Taylor and Francis, pp. 179-187.
  • Emanuel R.E, D'Odorico P., Epstein H.E. (2007). "Evidence of optimal water use by vegtation across a range of North American ecosystems" Geophysical Research Letters 34, L07401 doi: 10. 1029/2006GL028909.
  • Gabrielle L. Katz, Jonathan M. Friedman, & Susan W. Beatty. 2001. Effects of physical disturbance and granivory on establishment of native and non-native riparian trees. Diversity & Distributions. 7:1-4.

Water Monitoring

A multidisciplinary team examines water quality issues (stream temperature and salinity) in mountain urbanized, residential, and 'natural' control streams – looking at influences of development on high-gradient stream temperature dynamics. The faculty team implemented the Program for Interdisciplinary Research on Mountain Streams (PIRMS) in order to understand the lack of data on high-gradient stream dynamics. PIRMS includes expertise from hydrology, chemistry and physics. Boone Creek, an urban stream in northwestern North Carolina, has been a test site for this assessment effort since 2006. This monitoring effort collects data on water stage, temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity at a frequency of 96 d-1 using permanently installed sensors. The data show that temperature and salt are significant issues facing Boone Creek.

A second area of research involves monitoring fractured bedrock aquifers that serve water supply needs for much of the western NC high country. These aquifers are relatively unstudied, especially in the Blue Ridge, but they are critical resources to much of the population outside of municipalities. Growing populations may affect water availability (and quality) from those aquifers.

A related research initiative of this group of faculty is to understand impending water shortages due to increasing water demands of growing populations and developing societies. The group examine both factors controlling water supply and water demand since water shortages may be caused by either an increase in demand or water shortages. Research examines both natural and human controls on water supply and demand at global and regional scales.

  • Anderson, Jr., W.P. and D. G. Evans. 2007. On the interpretation of recharge estimates from steady-state model calibrations. Ground Water.
  • Anderson, Jr., W.P., C.M. Babyak, and C.S. Thaxton. (2006). Baseline monitoring case study of a high-gradient urbanized stream: Boone Creek, Boone, NC. ASCE Proceedings of the 2nd National Low Impact Development Conference.
  • Boone Creek Restoration project is supported by funds from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Appalachian State University.

Air Quality and Climate Change

The Appalachian Atmospheric Interdisciplinary Research (AppalAIR) program has developed a synergistic approach to understanding atmospheric properties and processes and the associated environmental, economic, and societal impacts in Western North Carolina. A thirty meter tower is currently being outfitted with multiple sensors that will support atmospheric research in mountain regions.

The focus of this interdisciplinary research is to improve understanding of atmospheric properties and processes and the associated impacts on terrestrial ecosystems and climates in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Research will focus on four inter-related areas: 1) weather and forecasting, 2) climate variability and change, 3) air quality, and 4) ecosystem and agricultural impacts. The research will:

  • Improve monitoring and observations at sites across Western North Carolina;
  • Improve numerical weather and climate modeling capabilities;
  • Develop future change assessments and associated environmental, economic, and societal impacts;
  • Promote public outreach and understanding of the impacts of weather and climate.

The AppalAIR team also participates in a local and regional Snow Network related to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (CoCoRaHS). This is a very low-cost (heavily volunteer and community-based effort) initiative that supports research associated with climate change, extreme events, disaster planning, particularly has been proposed for mountain regions where the spatial variability of precipitation is so pronounced.

  • The National Commission for Energy Policy supported the efforts of Okmyung Bin, East Carolina University, Chris Dumas, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Ben Poulter, Duke University and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; and John Whitehead, Appalachian State University, that resulted in the publication of: Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on North Carolina Coastal Resources.
  • S. N. Villalpando, R.S. Williams (Appalachian State University) and R.J. Norby. 2008. Elevated air temperature alters an old-field insect community in a multi-factor climate change experiment. Global Change Biology, in press.
  • Neufeld, H.S., Lee, E.H., Renfro, J.R., and Hacker, W.D. (2000) Seedling insensitivity to ozone for three conifer species native to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Environmental Pollution 108:141-151.
  • Chappelka, A.H., H.S. Neufeld, A.W. Davison and G.L. Somers. (2003) Evaluation of ozone injury on foliage of cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) and crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Environmental Pollution 125:53-59.
  • A Comparison of 30-year Climatic Temperature Normals for the Southeastern United States. Peter T. Soule. Southeastern Geographer. 45(1) 2005.

Invasive Species Management

Faculty members at ASU examine the relationships between ecosystems and the unintended consequences of changes in the environment and invasive species. This work explores the links between population and community processes such as reductions in biodiversity, shifts in atmospheric chemistry and the spread of invasive species and the influence on critical ecosystem services and processes.

  • Madritch, M.D., and R.L. Lindroth. In press. Removal of invasive shrubs reduces exotic earthworm populations. Biological Invasions.
  • Griffiths, R.P., Madritch, M.D., and A.K. Swanson. In press. The effects of topography on forest soil characteristics in the Oregon Cascade Mountains, (USA): implications for the effects of climate change on soil properties. Forest Ecology and Management.
  • Madritch, M.D., L.M. Jordan, and R.L. Lindroth. 2007. Interactive effects of condensed tannin and cellulose additions on soil respiration. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 37: 2063-2067.

Environmental Recreation Management

Appalachian is located in the mountainous northwest corner of North Carolina. The region includes Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Rockies), the Blue Ridge Parkway, the New River (part of the Wild & Scenic Rivers System and an American Heritage River), Grandfather Mountain, four ski resorts, the Pisgah National Forest, and numerous recreation oriented resorts and private developments. Because of its location and regional recreational areas, it is well suited to engage in broad based research efforts to study the relationships between the use of these resources and environmental and economic impacts.

  • Green, S; Rabinowitz, E., Curtin, L. & Reesman, K. "Evaluation of the North Carolina Office of Disabilities and Health" by Center for Disease Control.
  • West, S. "An Investigation of the Environmental Correlates that Facilitate Leisure-Time Physical Activity," Be Active-Appalachian Partnership.

For additional information contact:
Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, Professor
Department of Biology
572 Rivers Street
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608
email: neufeldhs@appstate.edu
departmental webpage: http://www.biology.appstate.edu/faculty/neufeldhs.htm
personal webpage: http://www.appstate.edu/~neufeldhs/index.html
Tel: 828-262-2683
Fax: 828-262-2127