Cape Lookout National Seashore draws over four hundred thousand visitors every year. The coastal ecosystem offers recreation for humans, provides habitat for wildlife and plants, and showcases maritime history.
Climate change is already impacting the islands. Increased storm intensity, rising sea levels, and higher temperatures contribute to changed island dynamics that will impact humans, animals, plants, and historical objects in the area.
Sea Level Rise
Coastal cities in North Carolina are experiencing different rates of sea level rise. Subsidence, or the sinking or caving of the land, has much to do with this variation across regions.
In Beaufort, sea levels have risen approximately 2.6 millimeters per year since 1973. This continued rise will severely impact the natural and cultural resources at Cape Lookout.
Saltwater intrusion is the invasion of saltwater in areas that historically retain and use freshwater. Intrusion from rising sea levels reduces the amount of freshwater available for plants and animals. Without a quality fresh water source, many species cannot survive.
Increased saltwater content can severely affect freshwater ecosystems. Cape Lookout's famous wild horses must have access to freshwater, and many native plants cannot grow in soil that is too salty. Humans will be impacted as well: saltwater intrusion results in lack of quality water for us to drink.