Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
North Carolina Natural and Working Lands

North Carolina Natural and Working Lands

When managed sustainably, natural and working lands—including farms, forests, and wetlands—can store carbon, enhance community and ecosystem resilience, and provide many other social, economic and environmental benefits. North Carolina’s Natural and Working Lands (NWL) stakeholder group External link brought together experts from academia, environmental and community NGOs, and state government agencies, led by the Department of Environmental Quality, to develop recommendations for the Natural and Working Lands Action Plan related to managing natural and working lands in the state to enhance carbon and resilience benefits. The NWL stakeholder group is continuing to work on implementing those recommendations.

Natural and Working Lands Products

The Nicholas Institute led a NWL subcommittee on floodplains and wetlands and coordinated development of a recommendation for coordinated buyouts and restoration in frequently flooded areas. These recommendations are part of the Natural and Working Lands Action Plan included in the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan.

The Institute also conducted spatial analysis to identify the geographic scope of many of the NWL group’s recommendations, the potential scale of the recommended actions’ carbon and resilience benefits, and how the recommended actions overlap with areas important for co-benefits such as improved water quality and recreational access. These results are included in the NWL Action Plan, and data and maps are available for download. The data is also summarized in a series of StoryMaps that include state-level maps and information as well as examples of using the data at local scales.  This information can be useful for targeting actions and understanding co-benefits and trade-offs at both the state and local levels.


Pocosins Mapping

Pocosins are a unique wetland type in the North Carolina coastal plain that provide valuable wildlife habitat and store large amounts of carbon in their peat soils. Many pocosins in North Carolina have been altered by drainage, land clearing, or plantation forestry. There is increasing interest in pocosin restoration, with some restoration projects on both public and private land already underway. To help identify opportunities for pocosin restoration and as a first step to improving estimates of carbon storage by pocosins, the Nicholas Institute created updated maps of pocosin status (vegetation and drainage) and owner type, building on the existing wetlands maps developed by the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management in 1999.
Thanks to Curt Richardson (Duke), Michael Schafale (NC Natural Heritage Program), Scott Pohlman (NC Natural Heritage Program), Sara Ward (US Fish & Wildlife Service), and the rest of the NWL pocosins subcommittee for sharing their pocosin expertise and providing input on the map updates, and to Matthew Fagan (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) for sharing his plantation forests dataset. This work was funded by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.