This Cooperative is located within the central coastal region of North Carolina, encompassing Carteret, Craven, and Onslow Counties. This area includes the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve, state and national parks, Department of Defense installations, and State Port facilities. The region’s extensive marsh and seagrass systems, sweeping beaches, and sheltered harbors support a high concentration of shipping, commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism. The region is also renowned for the wealth of academic and scientific institutions, including NOAA laboratories, universities, and state coastal management and fisheries agencies.
Active research and monitoring occurs throughout the North Carolina Cooperative geography. For example, the NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and National Estuarine Research Reserve conduct vegetative monitoring and monitor Surface Elevation Tables to track sea level changes and effects on local marsh ecosystems. NOAA tide gauges positioned along the North Carolina coast monitor sea-level rise trends, with higher rates of rising waters along the northern North Carolina coastline to lower rates in the south. The central region, where the Cooperative is located, falls in the middle of that spectrum, with an estimated sea-level rise of 2.83 millimeters—approximately the thickness of two dimes—per year. According to the NOAA Tides and Currents website, the annual global average rate of sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters.
Combined, all these factors make this region an ideal location for the NOAA Sentinel Site designation. The NC Sentinel Site Cooperative (NCSSC) aims to create a network of partners among the scientific community, resource managers, and community members. NCSSC partner organizations work together to continue long-term research and monitoring efforts and to establish demonstration projects within the NCSSC boundary. For example, NOAA scientist, Carolyn Currin provides expertise on marsh ecosystems and living shorelines to local resource managers and community members through the NC NERRS Coastal Training Program. Learn more about living shorelines from Carolyn’s podcast in the NOS Diving Deeper series here. These partnerships in the NC Cooperative result in more informed decisions about how to protect North Carolina’s coastal resources and ecosystems.
The North Carolina Coastal Atlas is a collaborative effort to enable access to coastal data and inform coastal managers, scientists, students and the interested public. We provide selected geospatial data, visualization tools and thematic maps focused on coastal resources and hazards.