June 4, 2021

North Carolina Model Shows How States Benefit From Protecting Coastal Habitats

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

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.

Lydia Olander and Katie Warnell, both of the Ecosystem Services Program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, also discussed a model 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.