Keeping Watch

Mar 7, 2024

According to the 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report, monitoring is key to protect vulnerable coastal communities against storm surges, flooding, and damage to property. The report underscores that ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise. 

We’re grateful that Reserves keep watch on our changing coasts through nationally standardized programs that monitor local changes in weather, water quality, and habitats. These place-based programs are well equipped to assess the risks and opportunities for local communities, and the capacity for long-term monitoring across a national system allows Reserves to inform national science and policy and educate the next generation of coastal management professionals.

Hurricane recovery is a long, traumatic process that begins with understanding the storm’s impacts. A team of Reserves transformed their monitoring data into “Storm Stories” to help communities visualize post-storm changes in local environments.

After Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, investigators used data from the North Carolina’s Reserve’s System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) to track a tripling in infections of the deadly pathogen in the hurricane’s wake. “The investigators approached us because we had some of the best data in the area,” said Byron Toothman, a monitoring technician at the Reserve. “It stretches across many geographic regions and is consistent in the way it is collected, processed, and handled.”

At our North Carolina Reserve, System (SWMP) data is a “renewable resource” for local science and education. For 20 years, the Reserve has monitored local, environmental trends.

Many people in the Southeast depend on the shrimp industry for their livelihoods, but the annual catch for white and brown shrimp has been fluctuating for decades. The ACE Basin, North Inlet-Winyah Bay, and Sapelo Island Reserves are using SWMP data to figure out what’s driving these changes

We are so thankful for Reserves across the country for doing everything they can to continually track the conditions of our precious coastal ecosystems and help make coastal communities more resilient to sea level rise. Learn more about the importance of continual tracking in the 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report.

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