All posts by Kim Matthews

August Message from the Board

Greetings Wetland Supporters:

Summer is well upon us and so is work dealing with wetlands.  One such event was the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference that was held in Raleigh, NC in July.  Mitigation and ecosystem banking is very important to maintain and increase the quality and quantity of wetlands across the United States.

First, impacts to wetlands due to development must be permitted by the state and federal regulatory agencies with the goal to avoid and minimize wetland impacts. When impacts can’t be avoided, the impacted wetland areas must be replaced or mitigated in size and function preferably in the same watershed.  Mitigation normally takes the form of restoration or creation. 

  • Creating a wetland means putting a wetland where one had not previously existed, and this is the most complex way to mitigate wetland impact.
  • Restoration means taking a damaged or degraded wetland and turning it back to a high functioning, high quality. Restoration can take on many forms such as improving or restoring hydrology (such as plugging ditches on the coast), planting native wetland vegetation, and connecting wetlands to other wetlands such as a salt marsh to the ocean.

So, what is ecosystem banking?  First ecosystems are more than wetlands and streams so what else may be mitigated?  There are some localities in the US where there are local ordinances that require impacts to entire ecosystems must also be mitigated.  There is such an ordinance in Hilton Head Island, SC. 

Banking refers to the process where wetlands, streams and other ecosystems are restored, and a bank of mitigation credit are established.   Restoration companies then these sell mitigation credits to the developer who want to impact a wetland, stream or other ecosystem.  This process of generating credits before the impact occur is an efficient way to mitigate impacts.

You will be hearing more about wetland restoration in the future due to some of the projects we are seeking funding and, we have recently formed a partnership with the SC Mitigation Association.  We will be exploring ways where we can benefit each other. 

Most of the sponsor of the Carolina Wetland Association are in the business of wetland mitigation; including our newest sponsor – the South Carolina Mitigation Association.  We look forward to working together on wetland education, outreach, and development opportunities.

Finally, while not mitigation-related, but our Volunteer Wetlands Monitoring Project has partnered with Wildnote to use their mobile data application to collect field data.  We will be testing to the best methods for citizen scientists to perform wetland monitoring.  We are both very excited to see how this works out.

So, go beat the heat and explore a cool shaded wetland.


July Message from the Board

Dear Wetland Supporter,

Why do I love wetlands? Because they are full of LIFE. No matter what time of year you visit one, even in winter, surprising things are happening. Wetlands readily provide that essential to life – water – and organisms of all kinds take full advantage of it!

In spring, wetland plants are waking up. I love to watch the brown world turn green; it often happens earlier in wetlands than uplands. Look for things you can only see in spring: fern fiddleheads, ironwood catkins, violet flowers, tree leaf buds popping open. Spring bird migrations of large flocks can be seen in our coastal wetlands. Cricket frogs begin calling as the weather warms, as well as the North Carolina state frog – the uncommon Pine Barrens treefrog, which breeds in Sandhills and Coastal Plain wetlands in spring. 

Green Treefrog
Green Treefrog (Photo by Alvin Braswell)

In summer, our wetlands are glorious. Water lilies and Venus’ flytraps are blooming, cypress trees are soft and feathery, butterflies are fluttering, wading birds are hunting, wetland shrubs are blooming, tadpoles are wiggling, blueberries are fruiting, dragonflies are zooming, beavers are building, turtles are nesting…. Everywhere you look in a wetland, LIFE is obvious and it’s beautiful.

Water Lilies. (Photo provided by Rick Trone)

In fall, bursts of color in our red maple and tupelo swamps are fantastic. Wetlands provide important sources of rest and food for migrating fall warblers. In freshwater wetlands, look for hatchling turtles, buttonbush flowers turning to “buttons”, interesting seedheads on rushes and reeds, and fruits on tupelos and persimmons. Wet prairies are full of colorful fall wildflowers, and shrimp are moving out of their coastal wetland nursery grounds.

Pond cypress swamp in the fall. (Photo by Evan Gianopulos)

In winter, many salamanders in the Carolinas begin breeding after the first warm, heavy winter rains, especially in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. Their eggs can be found in globular masses in the waters of temporary woodland pools or ephemeral wetlands. Winter is also an amazing time to see flocks of over-wintering waterfowl in our wetlands. In North Carolina, Lake Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes are famous for large numbers of snow geese, tundra swans, American coots, and other waterfowl. In South Carolina, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and Santee National Wildlife Refuge offer fine opportunities to see overwintering ducks, geese, red-winged blackbirds, and shorebirds in their wetlands. Winter and early spring are also great times to find aquatic macroinvertebrates in wetlands – including larval dragonflies, mayflies, water fleas, beetles, and snails. Next time you visit one, take a dip net and see LIFE what you can find!

Pine Warbler in the snow. (Photo by Alvin Braswell)

To help you find a wetland to visit, the NC Division of Water Resources recently published an interactive map of publicly accessible wetlands across North Carolina. They also have a printable wetlands passport, so you can check off where you’ve been and discover new places to visit. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources manages many preserves with wetlands. Our wetland treasures map is also a great way to find a beautiful wetland. 

Next time you are out and about, think about taking a little detour to see what LIFE you can find in one of our beautiful wetlands of the Carolinas!

Don’t forget – share your wetland vacation photos with us on Facebook and Instgram!

Kristie Gianopulos

Secretary, Carolina Wetlands Association

Wetlands Role in Water Quality


One of the most important functions of wetlands is the ability to purify water and preserve water quality. Despite the integral role of wetlands in maintaining healthy ecosystems, they continue to be at risk of impacts by development, lack of legal protections, pollution, and the negative influences of climate change.  Wetlands provide numerous ecosystem services; one of which being their ability to improve water quality and help in maintaining water quantity. These critical services are only expected to become more important as freshwater becomes an increasingly limited resource.  It is therefore imperative that efforts are taken to preserve and restore our nation’s wetlands in order to retain our natural healthy waterways.

Agriculture and Preserving Wetlands: Benefits for Farmers, Communities, and Wildlife

Written by Sarah Morton


Farmers are the backbone of our country.  They work day in and day out to produce the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and so much more.  Farms also provide critical habitats for wildlife and can host many different types of ecosystems, including wetlands.  From the 1950s to the 1970s though, wetlands- half a million acres of them, were pumped dry so the land could be used for agriculture (Sucik and Marks, 2013).  Today, wetlands are still drained or filled in for urban developments but farmers that do this lose privileges to USDA grants.  Now, there are programs that pay for farmers to revert land back to wetlands and this can increase yields and protect vital resources for years to come.

As more time goes by, farmers are embracing wetlands on their property because of the benefits they provide.  Utilizing wetlands can help farmers manage pollution, increase the number of pollinators, and potentially keep their wells from running dry.  Each of these benefits can improve the productivity of their crops and protect surrounding communities and wildlife.

Managing Pollution

Farms are the number one source of nutrient pollution in streams.  Nutrient pollution consists of nitrates and phosphorus from fertilizers and/or manure being mixed with water and running downhill after precipitation events.  Contaminated runoff from both free range livestock farms and concentrated animal feeding operations can cause algal blooms, seen in Figure 1, which leads to a lack of oxygen in waterways (Kay, et al., 2021).  This lack of oxygen, also called hypoxia, has been responsible for many fish and shellfish kills here in the Carolinas.  Fish kills occurred for months after Hurricane Matthew as waste from farms was swept into creeks and streams (Dybas, 2018).

Figure 1. Photograph of algal bloom. Source: NC Division of Water Resources

Wetlands, whether they are natural or constructed, can deter these pollutants from entering waterways even at times when the water flows high due to large rainfall events (Kay, et al., 2021).  Nitrates are removed from runoff and surface water by wetland vegetation (University Study, 2020).  The use of this nutrient by wetland plants lessens the amount of nitrates reaching other waterbodies.  Wetland restoration or construction enhances general water quality and protects downstream communities from pollution.

Increasing Pollinator Populations

Farmers that grow crops rely on bees, flies, butterflies, and more to pollinate flowers which will enable fruit/vegetable growth.  As wild pollinator populations fall due to habitat loss, preserving or restoring wetlands may be a solution to increase crop productivity (Begosh, Smith, et al., 2020).    A study published in the scientific journal of Ecosystem Services of Wetlands shows that the number and diversity of hymenopterans- wasps, bees, sawflies, and ants, are influenced by wetland presence (Begosh, Smith, et al., 2020).  Larger populations of hymenopterans increase the likelihood of pollination, which will positively affect crop yields.

Potential Well Water Recharge

Over 43 million people in the United States source their water from wells on their property (USGS).  Of these millions, most live in rural areas, including the farmers we rely on.  Water is a crucial resource for any farmer whether they only have livestock or if they grow crops.

When it comes to water consumption, around 80% of all the water in the United States is used for agricultural purposes (USDA, 2019).  This water consumption can lower the water table potentially causing nearby wells to run dry.  While this is more common in western parts of the United States, it’s important to manage water resources on the east coast as well.

 Most wetlands are located at points where water is discharged from the water table.  Wetlands are commonly found at lower elevations where the water table sits.  Some wetlands, however, can actually recharge groundwater as seen in Figure 2 (Carter, 1997). This means that water within the wetland seeps into the water table below and moves away from the wetland.  These types of wetlands can recharge nearby wells and protect water resources for farmers and surrounding communities.

Figure 2 Diagram of wetland and groundwater interactions. Water in wetlands can be a result of discharge from the water table as seen in the top image, or can recharge groundwater seen in the bottom image. Source: USGS

Wetlands and agriculture go hand in hand.  Less water pollution, healthier populations of pollinators, and protecting water resources are just a few benefits wetlands provide.

Are you a farmer or do you know one? 

Financial assistance to restore wetlands on agricultural lands is available through the following Programs: 

Additional resources are available in Landowner’s Guide to Wetland Restoration


Carter, V. (1997). Wetland Hydrology, Water Quality, and Associated Functions. USGS. National Water Summary on Wetland Resources. Accessed 5/31/2021. Retrieved from:

Begosh, A., Smith, L.M., Park, C.N. et al. (2020, Oct). Effects of Wetland Presence and Upland Land Use on Wild Hymenopteran and Dipteran Pollinators in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska, USA. Wetlands 40, 1017–1031 (2020).

Dybas, C.  (2018, May 2). Two decades of hurricanes change coastal ecosystems: increase algae blooms, fish kills, dead zones. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from:

Kay, D., Clarke, A., Crowther, J., Davies, C., Francis, C. A., Stapleton, C. M., Watkins, J., Wyer, M. D. (2021, Feb 16). Effectiveness of Constructed Farm Wetlands In Attenuating Faecal Indicator Fluxes To Watercourses From Yard Runoff On Livestock Farms.  Water and Environment Journal.  DOI: 10.1111/wej.12700

NC Division of Water Resources. (n.d.). Blue-green Algae Fact Sheet.  Accessed 5/31/2021. Retrieved from:

Sucik, M. T. & Marks, E. (2013). The Status and Recent Trends of Wetlands in the United States. USDA.  Accessed 5/28/2021. Retrieved from:

University Study Shows Restoring Wetlands near Farms would Reduce Water Pollution. (2020, December 23). Legal Monitor Worldwide.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, Sep 23). Irrigation & Water Use. Accessed 5/28/2021. Retrieved from:

About the Author

Sarah Morton

Sarah Morton is a student at Southern New Hampshire University studying environmental science with a concentration in natural resources and conservation.  After finishing her degree, her goal is to work closely with local farmers in North Carolina to protect and enhance soils for generations to come.

Blue Carbon: The Ecosystem Service Hidden Beneath Your Feet

Though their geographic extent may not rival that of their terrestrial counterparts, coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds and wetlands store carbon at the highest rates per unit area of natural ecosystems. Blue Carbon refers to the carbon stored in biomass – such as leaves and roots – and deep sediments of coastal and marine ecosystems. Increasingly referred to as “blue” due to proximity of the ocean, the carbon stored in these ecosystems has both internal and external sources, allowing the system to act as a carbon sink for an extensive area.

Blue carbon is found in marshes, seagrasses and tidal wetlands around the world.

Wetlands influenced by daily tides – known as tidal wetlands – are particularly important ecosystems when considering drawdown and storage of atmospheric and oceanic carbon. At low tide wetland vegetation utilizes and stores carbon from the atmosphere (CO2) during photosynthesis. When winter comes and this dense vegetation dies back, the carbon held within can be stored in the sediment. At high tide the vegetation slows oncoming waves allowing the sediment and carbon they carry to settle on the wetland surface. 

Wetlands can vertically increase gaining height often in pace with sea level rise. Over time and under the right conditions, these wetlands have the ability to vertically increase, gaining height often in pace with sea level rise in a way man-made structures (such as bulkheads or sea walls) cannot.

Wetlands can vertically increase gaining height often in pace with sea level rise.

This vertical growth provides the potential for un-saturated blue carbon burial and storage as sediment is deposited.



Potential for un-saturated blue carbon burial and storage as sediment is deposited.

Existing carbon stores, and the ability of tidal wetlands to continue to store carbon over time are increasingly at risk from natural and human-caused stressors including urban development and sea level rise. These stressors can degrade wetlands over time resulting in a transition from carbon sink, to source. With global annual loss between 0.7-7%, coastal ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate and releasing an estimated 0.15-1.02 billion tons of once stored carbon back into the atmosphere each year.

As a graduate student in North Carolina, I wanted to quantify what degradation and loss of wetlands would mean for the carbon stored within the soils of my state’s wetlands. My graduate research focuses on how effects from sea level rise including increased saltwater intrusion and erosion will affect existing carbon stores and future storage capacity of tidal wetlands within the Cape Fear River Estuary (CFRE).

Dark soil core rich in carbon from the Cape Fear River wetland.

By determining where carbon stores are located within the estuary and how fast they are growing I can determine – along with the current rate of sea level rise in the region – which carbon stores are at risk of being degraded and transformed from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Carbon storage is increasingly becoming one of the most important ecosystem services our coastal ecosystems can perform. As sea level rise continues to pose problems for our nation’s coastal communities, the ability of wetlands to evolve over time – unlike man-made structures which stay stagnant – is an incredibly powerful tool. My hope is by understanding how carbon stores within wetlands of the CFRE function and are impacted by effects of sea level rise, results from my research can inform local governments, land managers and environmental policy makers, and ensure future protection of these wetlands as valued ecosystems for the carbon they store.

Learn more about Blue Carbon


Fry, Brian. Stable Isotope Ecology. Springer, 2008.

Giese, G.L., Wilder, H.B. & Parker, G.G. Hydrology of Major Estuary & Sounds of North Carolina. U.S. Geological Survey- Water    Supply Paper 2221. 19-37.

McLeod, E., Chmura, G.L., Bouillon, S., et al. (2011). A blueprint for blue carbon: toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology. 9:10:552-560.

McTigue, N., Davis, J., Rodriguez, A. B.,McKee, B., Atencio, A., & Currin, C. (2019). Sea level rise explains changing carbon            accumulation rates in a salt marsh over the past two millennia. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 124.

Nittrouer, C.A., Sternberg, R.W., Carpenter, R. & Bennett, J.T. (1979). The use of Pb-210 geochronology as a sedimentological     tool: application to the Washington continental shelf. Marine Geology. 31: 297-316.

About the Author

A graduate student at UNC-Wilmington, Mackenzie Taggart [she, her] studies coastal wetland dynamics as a part of the Coastal & Estuarine Studies Lab under the advisement of Dr. Devon Eulie. After graduating in 2022 with a Masters in Marine Science, she hopes to continue her work by developing science-based policies to protect these valuable coastal ecosystems and the carbon they store. 

May is American Wetland Month

May is the perfect time of the year to celebrate wetlands across North and South Carolina. Plants and animals have awoken from their winter slumber and are ready for your enjoyment. The pollen is mostly gone and days are warm (but not too hot) making for good opportunities for hiking, birding, paddling and just exploring a wetland near you.

2021 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas

The Carolina Wetlands Association invites your to visit one our Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. They are found through North Carolina and South Carolina from the mountains to the coast. Use our interactive map to find a place to visit near you.

Join us for a tour

We are hosting tours to our 2021 Wetland Treasures of the Carolians. Registration is limited so sign-up early.

  • Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve in Moore County,  NC
  • Carolina Beach State Park in New Hanover County, NC
  • Richardson-Taylor Preserve in Guilford County, NC

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Get news and information about wetlands and learn fun facts about our Wetland Treasures throughout May and beyond. Please follow us and like/share our message with your friends to help amplify our message.

2021 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas


Raleigh, NC – Carolina Wetlands Association joins wetlands enthusiasts all over the country to raise public awareness about the beauty and importance of the nation’s wetlands during May – American Wetlands Month.  The designation of Wetland Treasures across the Carolinas selects wetlands that are ecologically valuable, protected by conservation plans, and home to an abundance of plant and animal diversity.  All our Wetland Treasures provide many ecosystem services to the benefit of human wellbeing such as water quality, flood control, habitat, recreation, and a host of other services.

This year we are excited to display our Wetland Treasures logo which will give this program a brand and increased significance.  “I am proud of our Wetland Treasures program and this logo will give the program lasting significance.  We hope to see all of our Wetland Treasures make use of this logo as we continue to engage our Wetland Treasure communities”, said Carrie Caviness who is the program coordinator.  “The logo is a wonderful addition to our program and gives greater fulfillment to being designated as a Wetland Treasures of the Carolina Wetlands Association” stated Heather Clarkson who coordinated the development of the logo. 

“We are excited to highlight and celebrate the 2021 Wetland Treasure sites” said Carrie Caviness. “We hope Carolinians will take pride in our wetland heritage, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to the organizations and agencies that are protecting these natural treasures,” said Caviness. This year, we excited to be back to doing in person tours with the proper safety precautions as required by the site managers.  This includes standard COVID-19 protocol of masks and social distancing. 

The 2021 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas are as follows (click on links to view a factsheet):

Our now 30 Wetland Treasures expand across every ecoregion of both North and South Carolina giving most people the ability to visit one of our wetlands within a short drive and to discover the beauty and significance of being a Wetland Treasure of the Carolina Wetlands Association.  Explore these special places by visiting our Interactive Wetland Treasure Map.

We intend to engage our Wetland Treasures communities in future activities, promote events, and help provide management solutions by sharing information.  This will be emphasized in the coming months as our Wetland Treasure are not a one and done event, but an everlasting significance!

Carolina Wetlands Association thanks the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, whose Wetland Gems program is the model for this program. Carolina Wetlands Association promotes the understanding, protection, restoration, and enjoyment of North and South Carolina’s wetlands and associated ecosystems through science-based programs, education, and advocacy. More information online at

Contact: Rick Savage, President, Carolina Wetlands Association, carolinawetlands.or

Welcome to our Intern, EMMA

We are proud to introduce you to Emma Nani, the first high school intern for the Carolina Wetlands Association.

Emma is junior at Leesville Road High School (Raleigh, NC) and is part of the school newspaper and orchestra. Her college goal is to study Marine Biology or Environmental Science. She loves being outdoors, looking for wildlife or being in the water. In the summer, her time is spent lifeguarding at her local pool.

Emma will be assisting with our outreach and education programs including our volunteer wetland monitoring program. Keep an eye out for newsletter articles and social media posts by Emma . Hopefully there will be in-person opportunities to meet her in the coming months.

March Message: Welcome Spring

Hello Wetland Supporters:

Welcome to meteorological spring which starts on March 1.  This designation by the National Weather Service aligns with actual temperature data over the last 100 years.  But what does not align with the data, is the year 2020.

First, you will definitely remember RAIN and more RAIN.  It is even continuing into this year.  For North Carolina, 2020 was the second wettest year on record and it was the third hottest on record.  This fact, that both the hottest and the wettest records were both in the top five in the same year, has never happened in over 120 years of recorded weather!  That really made 2020 a very strange year for weather (never mind the pandemic).

This wet weather, while not always intense, was definitely frequent – the ground never had enough time to dry out before the next rain came.  This frequent rain is putting a lot of pressure on many communities that are trying to deal with flooding issues.  I have seen many communities start flooding from rains of less than an inch because the water has nowhere to go.  This is something that the Carolina Wetlands Association is working on in two major ways: (1) by directly working with local communities, and; (2) by being a part of the NC Governor Roy Cooper’s Disaster Recovery Task Force (Environmental Recovery Support Function [ERSF]).  

  1. Local Communities

Work with our two NC communities, Swansboro and Dunn, continues as we have applied for funding to develop plans to use their wetland resources to mitigate flooding problems .  We have also been contacted by the Town of Cary (NC) about potential work along the White Oak watershed (about 450 acres of wetlands) that flow into Jordan Lake Watershed.   And we are a part of the Upper Waccamaw Task Force in Horry County, SC (and surrounding areas) to help deal with their almost daily flooding given the frequent rains.  In all of these cases we are trying to help communities live with water rather than move water from one location to another which almost never solves the problem.

2. North Carolina Disaster Recovery Task Force 

The ERSF workgroup is looking for funding projects to help communities recover and to build resilience which includes using nature-based solutions.  The workgroup is also working to establish a statewide flood resilience framework with the purpose “…to drive efficient and effective funding decisions across federal, state, and local government to reduce flooding and improve economic, social and environmental outcomes across the state.”  This is a significant effort that will help work for many organizations and communities to better deal with flooding using nature-based solutions and build community resilience.

Please know that we (our many volunteers) are working hard on these efforts and if you can help with time or with a financial contribution – either will go a long way to helping Carolina Wetlands Association to continue to help these communities.

Thanks much and go enjoy a wetland this spring!

Rick Savage
President, Carolina Wetlands Association

World Wetlands Day

What is World Wetlands Day?
2 February each year is World Wetlands Day to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Theme: Wetlands are a source of freshwater

This year’s theme shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss. We are facing a growing freshwater crisis that threatens people and our planet. We use more freshwater than nature can replenish, and we are destroying the ecosystem that water and all life depend on most – Wetlands.

The 2021 campaign highlights the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet. Water and wetlands are connected in an inseparable co-existence that is vital to life, our wellbeing and the health of our planet. 

Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance
A key commitment of the Convention on Wetlands’ Contracting Parties is to identify and place suitable wetlands onto the List of Wetlands of International Importance, also known as the Ramsar List.  Today, there are over 2,400 Ramsar Sites across the world, covering more than 2.5 million square kilometers. We are proud to have two of these sites in South Carolina (Congaree Swamp and Francis Beidler Forest. The Carolina Wetlands Association have recently nominated Pocosin Lakes in North Carolina as a Ramsar Site.

Francis Beidler Forest

Francis Beidler Forest is home to the largest remaining virgin forest of bald cypress and tupelo gum trees in the world. It has thousand-year-old trees and pristine habitat that you can enjoy from a boardwalk. The forest is favored by hundreds of thousands of birds that migrate to South Carolina after wintering in South America. It was recognized as an Important Bird Area in 2001 and designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2008.

To learn more about the Francis Beidler Forest, read our Wetland Treasure fact sheet for the wetland. And to learn about visiting the Francis Beidler Audubon Center and Sanctuary page. 

Congaree Swamp

Congaree National Park is a mosaic of freshwater swamp forests, seasonal sloughs, forested peatlands, permanent and seasonal creeks, permanent freshwater lakes, and shrub-dominated wetlands. It contains the largest remaining example of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in North America.
The park supports a variety of species with different conservation statuses under the National Endangered Species Act and contains one of the highest wintering bird densities reported in the United States.

To learn more about Congaree Swamp, please visit CarWA’s video featuring the swamp as a Wetland Treasure. And also check out our fact sheet about Congaree Swamp!