Image from page 133 of "Coast watch" (1979)
Title: Coast watch
Authors: UNC Sea Grant College Program
Contributing Library: State Library of North Carolina
Digitizing Sponsor: North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
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Estuaries provide a nurturing environment for 90 percent of all commercially important shellfish and finfish. dealing with estuarine shoreline develop- ment. Riggs will produce the first in the series, incorporating the original data as well as new research findings. Subsequent guidebooks will deal with policy and mitigation methods. Walter Clark, Sea Grant coastal policy specialist, and Spencer Rogers, Sea Grant coastal erosion and construction specialist, will contribute to the series. W 'hereas studies of single species, single chemical processes, single geological features and single processes of a physical nature have been useful and often rigorous, the behavior of an estuary depends on the total interaction of all the chemical cycles, water circulations and species behaviors. When the Albemarle-Pamlico sound system was designated an "Estuary of Concern" in 1988, a team of Sea Grant researchers was dispatched to find solutions for the ailing system. Skaggs and Gilliam would investigate how land uses in the watershed affect estuarine water quality. NC State's Ed Noga would look at a disease suspected of causing a four-year decline in blue crab populations, and Walter Clark would develop a pilot program that would serve as a model for managing multiple uses of public trust waters. Len Pietrafesa and colleagues from NC State's Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, would be part of the multidisciplinary effort. Pietrafesa, would lead landmark studies of the circulation patterns of the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds — their links to each other and to surrounding bodies of water. He began looking at the sounds and the narrow inlets between barrier islands that funnel water in and out of the estuary. The central coast, he says, is uniquely situated relative to both winter northeasters and summer tropical storms. "It's the center of mass for winter storms, and the point where tropical storms can re-intensify or even spawn." The estuaries and coastal systems have learned to deal with storms, he says. But often people get in the way of nature. When water and winds build up in the shallow estuary basins, the winds punch the water through the narrow inlets into the coastal waters. Pietrafesa explains that during a Nor'easter, when the wind blows down the axis of the Pamlico Sound from NE to SW, the system sets up like a teeter-totter with the fulcrum at Bluff Shoals. The strong northeast wind pushes water southward allowing rivers to drain quickly. As winds shift to the southwest, the water is pushed in the opposite direction. But it's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good. The same ocean surges that may wash over barrier islands — claiming dunes, buildings and roadways — also carry fish larvae from the ocean waters into the sound side of the barrier islands. On the backside of the storm, Pietrafesa notes, winds from the west push water to the backside of the barrier island. Larvae enter the estuary in heavier sea water, which sinks to the bottom of the water column as wind-driven freshwater enters the system from the west. As the storm subsides and winds shift, the larvae are pushed west safely into the estuary's nursery. Hurricanes also can mean unusual nurseries of juvenile blue crabs. Recent studies by Sea Grant researcher Dave Eggleston concluded that hurricane winds drive juvenile blue crabs toward the western shore of the Pamlico Sound and into the Croatan, Albemarle and Currituck sounds. l/i the ecological approach to environmen- tal systems, man's role is considered as an integral part of nature. What's a salt marsh without egrets and ibises? Not much says James Parnell, nationally renowned ornithologist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Parnell has devoted much of his research career to studying the habits of colonial water birds. It was Parnell who first realized the importance of man-made dredge spoil islands that dot the state's estuaries. These islands have provided nesting habitats for large colonies of water birds, most of which used to nest along once undeveloped beachfront. Sea Grant funded his first water bird census, the atlas resulting from the census, subsequent publication evaluations and numerous publications about avian management. Scientists and resource managers say the birds are important to the coastal food chain and are indicators of environmental quality. They say that waterbirds are so vital to our coastal ecosystem that manage- ment of their nesting and feeding habitat is necessary. Parnell's later work, The 1993 Atlas of Colonial Waterbirds of North Carolina Estuaries and 7990 Management of North Carolina's Colonial Waterbirds — both published by North Carolina Sea Grant — are considered the ultimate management guides. \an receives from the bay system and its components the yield of aesthetic recreational restoration, foods, services in processing wastes, and other profits. If we draw on these systems without returning some exchange of special value to the estuary, we cause the aspects in which we are expecting continued yield to be diminished. At the portal of the 21st century, North Carolina Sea Grant remains committed to supporting research and extension activities to underwrite an estuarine policy that balances a mutually sustainable give and take of nature and society, n 30 HIGH SEASON 2001
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