Researchers talk coastal habitat risks from sea level rise, other hazards

Wetlands stretch along the shore near North River. Coastal habitats like this are at risk of sea level rise, according to researchers with Pew Charitable Trusts, Duke University, East Carolina University and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. (Mike Shutak photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Coastal habitat loss may cost North Carolinians the natural benefits the habitat provides, but researchers are working to keep decision makers informed of the risks and potential solutions.

Representatives from Pew Charitable Trusts, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, Duke University and East Carolina University held an online workshop Monday discussing the hazards coastal habitat faces and how scientists and state officials are working to preserve and protect it. Pew Charitable Trusts Director Jennifer Browning said the workshop was a part of the trusts’ coastal habitat learning series and evolved from approximately three decades of fisheries management.

“It’s been wonderful to watch how the (N.C.) Coastal Habitat Protection Plan has evolved,” said Ms. Browning, who was on the team which developed the CHPP.

Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Ecosystem Services program director Lydia Olander said Duke researchers, in partnership with the U.S. Climate Alliance, have been taking part in a project to map the effects of sea level rise on coastal ecosystem services. She said the project focused on six Atlantic Coast states, including North Carolina.

“The purpose was to facilitate coastal and climate mitigation planning,” she said.

Duke Ecosystem Services Program policy associate Katie Warnell said among the effects that climate change-induced sea level rise can have are loss of sea grasses, loss of marsh grasses, inland migration of salt marshes, loss of freshwater marshes and loss of coastal forests.

DMF biologist Casey Knight said there are six types of coastal habitats defined in the CHPP: water column, soft bottom, shell bottom, ocean hard bottom, wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation. All these habitats provide a variety of ecosystem services, including water quality treatment, shoreline erosion control, storm protection, flood control, carbon sequestration and harvestable habitat.

“They (coastal habitats) are highly correlated with fisheries production,” Ms. Knight said.

ECU ecology evolution and marine science postdoctoral researcher Dr. Christopher Baillie said specific recommendations on how to prevent loss of these habitats and restore already lost habitat are still in the works.

“There’s a ton of research…that points to the fact the status quo isn’t the way forward,” Dr. Baillie said.

One example is studies show over the last 20 years, many acres of estuarine wetlands have been lost due to property development, agricultural operations or becoming flooded and turning into open water or unconsolidated shores.

Whatever the solution is, it won’t be a single step, according to Ms. Knight.

“There’s no one solution,” she said. “It’s a death by 1,000 cuts situation, so it needs 1,000 Band-Aids.”


Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(14) comments


Global warming must be stopped and stopped now. But the universe is also warming and so we must expand our reach to , say Mars first. The sun is becoming warmer and warmer and no one is dining anything. We must talk more.


The universe is cooling as it expands and entropy increases.

David Collins

Yup , more hot air will help this imaginary problem . Only vast amounts of money will turn back what is not there . What a crock !


I don't know how anyone could deny climate change. Pretty sure it has been doing it for a few billion years. Humans don't have the power to change the climate.


Climate Does indeed change. Do you see any glaciers floating about? The question is what can we do about it???? Stop eating protein?? Or turn off the TV.


Global sea level is rising however , what hey failed to mention was that its about a thousand times less then their predictions, according to the last documented studies. (so, if their calculations were that misrepresented, i doubt anything they say beyond that need be glanced at by any serious thinkers.) 86 this garbage......


Change occurs almost every day because we live in an ever-changing world. So why wouldn’t climate change with time? Accept it!

The only thing that will never change is change. The earth’s climate has warmed since the beginning of time.

David Collins

Bet that the biggest reason for the extensive residential damage during strong storms is that there are so many more homes built in harms way . Folks are building ever closer to the water , any water . The natural windbreaks , tall trees come down to provide the all important view . Bingo , you are now exposed . Sadly , local officials have fallen all over themselves to allow this while salivating over anticipated tax returns . Years ago the folks knew better but now it is a free for all . This is self inflicted damage due to ignorance and slick salesmanship . Of course , these property owners , being in denial , cry to government to make it better . Government does what it does best , tax the folks and blame things on a nebulous foe that can not be proven or disproven .

Lived right here on the water for 39 years and the water level has not changed yet . Been eagerly awaiting the promised rise . Would give us better access . Boo Hoo , the agony of disappointment .


Rest assured the climate denier chorus does not represent everyone in the county.

While no sane person denies that climate change is a natural process, that cantankerous eons, or happen in a week as in the case of an erupting caldera.

Bubbles of air trapped in ice cores tell the story, climate and relatitive proportions of various gases in the atmosphere. While the majority of the country may be deniers, a much larger proportion of climate scientists agree adding co2 and methane to the atmosphere will change the climate.

Some people still beleive the earth is flat, vaccines have microchips, and trickle down economics is the best plan. No sense arguing with those folks, they are set in their beliefs.


Ah yes. Truth is in the tea leaves. But the sun is a a fission reaction and thus produces heat. The sun will become hotter and hotter over time. and then explode. We will all die in another fiery flood. for sure.


Also warm water makes for stronger hurricanes, and the water is definitely warmer. There's boundless data showing that the water is warming.

I'm sure there's plenty of folks here who will be "fake data conspiracy thermometers!", but it's not. You can go dig through the data yourself if you want:

Too many completely unqualified folks completely unwilling to trust experts in their field and armchair quarter back armies of PhDs who actually have a clue about what they're talking about because they study the data and are educated on the subject.

The gleeful embrace of ignorance in this country the past decade is a harbinger of the future of this country.


Latent heat of evaporation cools the ocean when it becomes hotter. I will believe anyone who can produce scientific irrevocably data to support what ever happens. So far nothing but grant money chasing.


People are allowed to believe whatever they want, just like someone trying to convince others that about 70 years of measure in water temp is an evaluation of the future, and i gotta say, mother nature is a mad scientist, all the while! Nature may appear to run in cycles to humans , however , i assure you , nothing in nature has the type of 'order' your trying to express. There are over 8 billion people on this rock, and 1, or maybe 2 actually care what your thinking. But, good luck. [yawn]

David Collins

Belittling folks for their comments has no place in a discussion . Just shows a lack of facts and desperation .

Actually strong storms help to moderate the climate . The intensity brings on the upwelling of cold water which cools down the surface temperature . Periods of low frequency usher on periods of greater frequency . Not a neat and orderly thing but random . The yin and yang of weather .

Now some folks want to actively fiddle with the global weather . Blocking the sunshine and all that . Tread carefully or better yet read a book or get a hobby . Bill Gates , are you listening ?

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.