Climate Change Adaptation Research Gaining Ground
Since 2009, we have partnered with The Nature Conservancy on a Climate Change Adaptation Project to study the effects of rising sea levels in North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula. This is a valuable first step toward addressing climate change adaptation for coastal ecosystems worldwide.
The Albemarle’s thriving natural communities are being altered by saltwater intrusion, shoreline erosion and decay of peat soils. These effects — partially attributed to climate change — could release additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
We are contributing $1 million over three years to help fund research on ways to slow saltwater intrusion and protect existing natural areas. Project workers have already begun to implement several of these approaches at The Nature Conservancy’s Point Peter demonstration site. They include:
- Building oyster reefs to buffer shorelines from waves and storm surges. The reefs also help in carbon sequestration and provide habitat for a variety of species.
- Using water control structures to restore the natural hydrologic system and prevent saltwater intrusion.
- Planting salt- and flood-tolerant vegetation like bald cypress and black gum trees to enhance future shoreline stability and prevent habitat and biodiversity loss. Project teams are also creating migration corridors to move species inland and upland from low-lying areas.
- Researching the carbon-storage potential of peat soil conservation.
In 2011, The Nature Conservancy entered into an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the climate adaptation activities to all nine refuges in the North Carolina Coastal Plain Refuge Complex.