Climate Change
Southeast Region

Profile: Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge


Quick Facts
  • Green circle with an M and Mitigation to designate project as an mitigation project
    Purple circle with an E and Engagement to designate project as an engagement project
    Location: Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, North Carolina. Headquarters in Columbia, North Carolina.
  • Size: 110,106 acres
  • Main Objectives: Provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and to preserve the unique pocosin wetland habitat.
  • Open to the public: Yes
  • Website:
  • Climate Change Threat: inundation of unique pocosin wetlands due to sea level rise, transforming them into saltwater marsh
  • Climate Change Opportunity: A 10,000 acre tract is being restored using carbon sequestration partnerships near the refuge. The project also will sequester an estimated annualized average of 10.8 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per acre per year.
  • Our role: We will manage strictly for wildlife and ecological benefit while our industry partners will mitigate carbon emissions.

What's a pocosin and how does it sequester carbon?

A thumbnail of clouds in blue skyPocosin is a Native American word meaning "swamp on a hill." They are a unique type of wetland characterized by deep organic soils known as mucks or peats. The depth of organic soil depth over mineral soil, though not evident at the surface, has a tremendous influence on the potential uses of the land. These peat soils can act as a chemical sponge over time, locking-up metals, carbon, and nutrients in their vegetation and soil.

Inundation of hundreds of thousands of acres of lowlying pocosins east of Pocosin Lakes from sea level rise is anticipated, and conversion of thousands of acres of low pocosin wetlands to marsh in and near Pocosin Lakes is likely.

Restoring their hydrology stops the loss of peat soils while allowing soil generation and biomass accumulation to resume. Over time, this results in increasing elevation of previously drained pocosins. Restoring peatlands provides an adaptive mechanism to sea level rise. The re-accumulation of soil also helps mitigate the impacts of flooding and storm events while improving water quality, wildlife and vegetation.

Learn more about our involvement with carbon sequestration (PDF)


Dive Deeper: Read the Story

Thumbnail of a turtle basking in a sunset "By working with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Service is restoring the pocosins as nature’s nutrient sponges, re-saturating nearly 11,000 acres on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

That’s the equivalent of taking about 6,000 cars off the road every year."

Read the full story


Graphs and Data


Map Depicting Pocosins with Restoration Potential and Pocosins in Conservation Ownership
Map depicting pocosins with restoration potential overlayed with pocosins already in conservation ownership

Above: With nearly a half million acres of degraded pocosin wetlands in need of restoration in North Carolina, there is potential to sequester millions of tons of carbon per year.

A vast cloud of black birds with red and yellow throats taking flight
Red-winged blackbirds feeding in the fields near Pungo Lake at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Bill Swindaman.

A portrait view of pocosins with blue sky above
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Dale Suiter, USFWS.

An egret takes flight over water
An egret takes flight at Lake Mattamuskeet. Photo by Michele Hayslett.

Last updated: October 6, 2010