Habitats are natural environments for plants, animals and other organisms. But in North Carolina’s increasingly urban landscapes, large areas of habitat are being carved into smaller bits and fragmented by roads, buildings and houses. Native plants and animals begin to disappear, all too often replaced by invasive and non-native species.
Sea Grant is committed to habitat restoration in the coastal plain and piedmont regions, where smaller creeks feed into rivers that flow to our coast. We are a leader in urban stream restoration, and we strive to educate the public about helping to identify invasive species and stop their spread.
Urban Stream Restoration
Sea Grant has helped restore a number of creeks and streams across the state, including Yates Mill in Raleigh, Pine Valley Golf Course in Wilmington, and a shellfish habitat in Carteret County known as “Jumping Run.” Our biggest project is Rocky Branch, an urban creek that runs more than a mile through the heart of the North Carolina State University campus. Once one of the state’s most polluted streams, Rocky Branch is now a national model for urban stream restoration.
A three-phased, multi million-dollar endeavor, the Rocky Branch project was designed to stabilize the creek, improve water quality as well as aquatic and wildlife habitat, and integrate the creek into the campus environment through greenway trails. Now that the final phase has been completed, the stream and greenways will function as a safe, accessible outdoor teaching laboratory and recreation area.
To learn more about how urban stream restoration improves water quality and enhances landscapes, view a special segment on Rocky Branch that aired on UNC-TV’s Coastwatch on NC NOW series. You will also find a companion article that appeared in Coastwatch, as well as teacher study questions, curriculum alignment help, and additional Web resources. For more details about the Rocky Branch project itself, download this brief guide. Also available is the summary report of the stream restoration assessment and the summary report of the Phase I construction.
Invasive species can have adverse ecological effects on streams, wetlands and beaches in North Carolina and across the nation. In addition to lowering biodiversity and threatening some native species with extinction, invasive species can have detrimental effects on tourism, recreation, forestry and agriculture.
Kudzu in the Southeastern United States is a classic example, but in North Carolina other species include beach vitex, lionfish, hydrilla, Eurasian water milfoil and giant salvinia.
In our efforts to education the public about invasive species, Sea Grant produced a field guide to invasive aquatic and wetland plants and has assisted in a number of other education efforts, including
- Leading an outreach project that links the Sea Grant and Association of Zoos and Aquariums networks to produce an award-winning interactive program used in zoos and aquariums across the nation. Read more.
- Partnering with South Carolina Sea Grant to develop an identification card for beach vitex, a woody vine that crowds out native dune plants, such as sea oats and American beach grass, and may aid in the erosion of sand dunes. Download the Beach Vitex ID card.
Photos: Daniel Kim (NCSU), NCSG Stock, Doug Kesling (NOAA / NURC)