Climate Change Adaptation Project


The goal of the Albemarle-Pamlico Climate Change Adaptation Project is to ensure that ecosystems remain vibrant in the face of their inevitable alteration by climate change and sea-level rise. The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners are developing long-term management strategies that contribute to ecosystem resilience and the stability of the peninsula’s carbon-rich peat soils.

At Alligator River

These strategies include restoring hydrology of a ditched landscape, managing ecosystem transition with transplanted vegetation, and reducing shoreline erosion with oyster reef construction. This project includes monitoring to assess strategy effectiveness. To date, the project has made advancements in three categories:
OYSTER RESTORATION: established 1900 linear feet of oyster reef habitat, 7 acres of oyster sanctuary
HYDROLOGIC RESTORATION: 11 miles of shoreline protection at Alligator River NWR including 5 ditch plugs complementing subtidal oyster reefs, completed a 65,000 acre water management capability plan for the Dare County Bombing Range and part of Alligator River NWR, monitored water conditions throughout the Alligator River NWR, installed two large check valve structures that limit salt water intrusion
VEGETATIVE RESTORATION: invasive Phragmites control for 11.5 acres, planted 20,000 flood-tolerant trees in a 40 acre experimental area, tested herbaceous marsh seeding techniques in 0.5 acre area.
Our next steps include continuing oyster habitat creation, continuing swamp and marsh restoration, implementing a carbon demonstration project to show how re-wetting pocosin can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions (see below), implementing the actions recommended by the 65,000 acre water management plan, and analyzing ecosystem service flows for the Albemarle-Pamilco Estuary.
At Pocosin Lakes:
The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore 1,325 acres of southeastern shrub bog wetlands, known as pocosins, at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. The effort is aimed at re-establishing more natural, seasonally-saturated conditions. The project site is threatened by altered precipitation regimes and increased wildfire associated with climate change. Historic ditching and drainage along with periods of low rainfall have resulted in the loss of organic pocosin soil through oxidation and catastrophic wildfire. By installing adjustable water control structures, we will create management conditions that reverse the pattern of subsidence towards one of soil accretion and carbon sequestration. Restoring these pocosins will also reduce wildfire risk and catastrophic soil loss.  All of which will retain conditions necessary for rare, natural pocosin communities now and into the future, particularly as pocosins closer to the coast are impacted by sea-level rise.
At Great Dismal Swamp:
A preliminary water management plan for adding water management capability to the refuge project area is being developed.  Similar to the plan developed for Alligator River NWR and Dare County Bombing Range, this plan will describe the ideal placement and design recommendations for new water control structures in the project area as well as ditch management practices and structure operation.  The plan incorporates the development of a hydrologic model of groundwater/surface water  interactions.  This model will be used to simulate hydrologic scenarios that will inform the design of the water control structures to be installed on the Refuge.