Cashin, G.E., J.R. Dorney, and C.J. Richardson. 1992. Wetland alteration trends on the North Carolina coastal plain. Wetlands 12(2):63-71.

Abstract: This study examines the magnitude and causes of wetland alterations within the North Carolina coastal plain. Utilizing soil maps, photointerpretation, and National Wetland Inventory Maps, we assessed wetland alterations between presettlement, the early 1950s, and the early 1980s on 27 randomly selected sample sites. Wetland alterations were defined and assessed in terms of the support of wetland function and values (i.e., uses). The study found that 51.3% of the historic wetlands in the sample had been altered by the early 1980s such that they no longer fully supported their original wetland functions and values. Between the early 1950s and the early 1980s, approximately 15.9% of the historic wetlands were altered such that original functions and values were not fully supported. The percentage of alteration differed greatly between estuarine and palustrine wetlands. Palustrine wetlands experienced a mean percent alteration of 52.4% by the early 1980s, while only 12.2% of the estuarine wetlands were altered. Between the early 1950s and the early 1980s, 16.9% of the historic palustrine wetlands were altered, as compared to only 9.9% of the estuarine wetlands. The conversion of wetlands for forestry caused 52.8% of the total alteration, followed by agriculture, which caused 42.2% of the total loss of wetlands. Urbanization, road construction, and rural residential development accounted for only a small percentage of the total loss of wetlands. The State of North Carolina needs to reevaluate the effectiveness of its wetland protection strategies (both administrative and legislative) to control future alterations of palustrine wetlands. Further work is also needed to determine recent trends in wetland alterations between the early 1980s to the 1990s, which may reflect more recent federal and state regulatory actions. Finally, similar survey work needs to be completed for the entire state to more fully understand wetland alteration trends in North Carolina.

Key Words: wetlands, wetland alteration, coastal plain, estuarine, palustrine.

Reproduced by permission

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