Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


RIGGS, Stanley R., CULVER, Stephen J., AMES, Dorothea V. and MALLINSON, David J., Department of Geological Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858,

The North Carolina “Land of Water” (NC LOW) coastal system is a complex network of inter-dependent ecosystems characterized by 525 km of barrier islands and inlets connected to 7,800 km2 of estuarine water with about 16,000 km of mainland shoreline. Extensive land areas adjacent to the ocean and estuaries are less than 0.5 m above mean sea level (MSL) and are dominated by the ongoing processes of climate change, sea-level rise, and recurring high energy storms. The NC coastal system is a product of the continual and dynamic interplay of geologic and ecologic processes with human culture and history.

A new economic paradigm is being developed, named NC LOW, that recognizes the fundamentally important role of the natural water resources in this region. The framework of NC LOW is based on a diversified, enhanced, and sustainable coastal economy that respects the natural dynamics essential for maintaining and preserving the coastal resources upon which that economy is dependent. These energetic processes of change have molded North Carolina’s human history and will have a heavy imprint on the nature of our future coastal economy.

The primary goal of NC LOW is to define and initiate an “umbrella” organization whose role is to facilitate an integrated approach to sustainable development and new business opportunities adapted to the NC LOW coastal system. The NC LOW program will be dependent upon the successful integration of human culture and history, societal needs and conflicts, with the geological and biological processes and resulting ecosystems. To succeed, there must be a critical outreach component to produce an educated public (both adults and K-16) as well as strong support from the many stakeholder groups, private industry, and all levels of leadership both within and outside of the coastal system. This is particularly critical in today’s world where science is sometimes vilified and natural coastal change is often prohibited through legislative means and engineering efforts. The consequence of this status quo attitude towards change leads to the “perfect conflict” between human development and quality of the natural resource base upon which the coastal economy is based.