Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Cape Lookout National Seashore

Bivalves and starfish litter a brown sandy shore with clear blue sky above.
Bivalves and starfish on the shore, 2015.

NPS Photo

A little more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) wide at most, and barely 56.8 miles (91.4 kilometers) at the narrowest point, the Outer Banks is a “string” or succession of narrow islands that shelter the North Carolina mainland from the sea. Cape Lookout is one of the most remote parks in the network system; about 64% of the seashore area is land and 36% is water. The barrier islands of Cape Lookout are wide, bare beaches with low dunes covered by scattered grasses, flat grasslands bordered by dense vegetation, and large expanses of saltmarsh on the south side. On Core Banks, the seashore includes the remnants of two small historic villages with no permanent residents.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2017

In order to better understand the natural resources and processes within Cape Lookout National Seashore, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2017. NPS staff discussed the greatest management needs in the National Seashore area, and created a list of 20 resource topics to be assessed:

- Adjacent human population impact

- Wilderness condition (Shackleford Banks)

- Geology and soils, including sea-level changes

- Air quality

- Surface water quality

- Soundscape

- Surficial sediment quality

- Fish

- Groundwater supply

- Herpetofauna

- Vascular flora

- Birds

- Benthic estuarine/marine macroinvertibrates

- Mammals

- Lightscape

- American oystercatcher (sentinel species of concern)

- Feral horses

- Piping plover (sentinel species of concern)

The overall condition of nine categories was rated as good (wilderness condition, soundscape, lightscape, surface water quality, surficial sediment quality, birds, American oystercatcher, sea turtles and feral horse population); eight were in fair condition (adjacent human impact, visitation, air quality, groundwater supply, benthic/marine macroinvertebrates, fish, herpetofauna, and piping plover); and three were in poor condition (geology and soils, vascular flora, mammals). Nearly all of the fair and poor conditions were strongly influenced or controlled by external forces that are not possible for the National Park Service to control. This assessment can function as a valuable resource for NPS staff and management by enabling rapid communication about the pressing need to improve protection of the natural resources at this seashore, which is a major natural wonder of this nation.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: June 24, 2022


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