Mike Naylor Maryland Department of Natural Resources

NC - North Carolina Model Shows How States Benefit From Protecting Coastal Habitats

Pew webinar highlights research on slowing climate change and improving fisheries.

U.S. coastal communities—home to almost 40% of the country’s population and nearly one-third of its businesses—face a growing threat from sea level rise and increasingly intense storms fueled by climate change. Two coastal habitats proven to help to protect coasts, salt marsh and seagrass, are in alarming decline because of climate change and development.

Earlier this spring, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Conserving Marine Life in the United States project hosted a webinar on how states can better conserve coastal ecosystems, which in turn will help boost community resilience to climate change and improve those ecosystems’ capacity to capture and store carbon. The webinar, attended by more than 160 federal and state officials, academics, and conservationists, featured presentations on North Carolina’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP) and how it could inform coastal conservation, climate adaptation, and resilience efforts in other states as well.

Panelists also discussed a model adapted by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions to map coastal carbon capture and storage—known as blue carbon—and existing coastal protection, which was then applied in states from New York to North Carolina. The research sought to determine whether habitats such as North Carolina’s expansive salt marsh meadows and seagrass beds can protect shorelines from climate impacts including severe storms and increased erosion while also storing blue carbon.

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