There’s a wide blue river in eastern North Carolina flowing lazily through a pine forest toward the Albemarle Sound. Not far from its banks, careful observers can find black bears, red wolves, woodpeckers, and other wildlife.

Michael Bryant loves this place: the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

“I just have a passion for wildlife and wild lands, and having the opportunity to manage it is like a dream come true,” says Bryant, project leader of the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Complex.

But the Alligator River refuge is in the middle of a vast transformation. Near the edge of the sound, land that once held forest is dotted with the gray trunks of dead pine trees. Saltwater – washing into the refuge as the sea level rises – is killing the trees.

“The plants that are salt-tolerant, like the marsh plants, are taking over,” Bryant explains in a video produced by the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment.

The change could be a problem for wildlife – like the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which lives only in the disappearing pine forest.

Bryant says he and his colleagues know they can’t hold back the sea forever. But they hope their efforts can help reduce the rate of change from forest to marsh. And they’re testing an innovative technique for doing that: installing an oyster reef to slow down erosion.

”Can Click To Tweet

This video is part of “a multimedia storytelling project about the daily lives of North Carolinians experiencing climate change,” funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Produced by David Salvesen of the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment, it is reposted here with permission.

Image: Banks of the Alligator River (source: video screen capture).

More Resources
Protecting North Carolina Wetlands as Seas Rise
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...