Floodplain and wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement are critical to North Carolina’s carbon sequestration and disaster prevention and recovery portfolio. In North Carolina, floodplains and wetlands cover 6.3 million acres. They store approximately 2.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequester 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

In addition, restoration opportunities for floodplains and wetlands provide other benefits. Restoring wetlands that can support forests is the best way to ensure that these wetlands will be a carbon sink, not a carbon source. In North Carolina, there are 4.3 million acres of reforestation opportunities in floodplain areas.

Natural resource benefits include reduced risk of nearby flooding and wildfires; increased water quality, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat; ecosystem health; public health; and expanded recreational opportunities.

The Floodplains and Wetlands Committee of the Natural and Working Lands Stakeholder Group is composed of representatives from state and federal government, conservation organizations, and universities. Some examples of projects that implement recommendations from the NC Natural and Working Lands Action Plan are:

The Nature Conservancy is leading multiple projects that aim to increase the state’s resilience to future storms, modernize water management, and increase river health. The NatureNet project and the Sustainable Rivers Program are complementary and can work together to form a complete model for improving river and floodplain health.

Contact for more information: Julie DeMeester, The Nature Conservancy

The StoryMap is part of the North Carolina Natural and Working Lands Collection, which examines the importance of natural and working lands in meeting the state's greenhouse gas emissions goals, enhancing community resilience, and providing other social and economic benefits.

Several federal programs purchase flood-damaged property from owners; structures are removed and the property is maintained as open space to prevent future flood damage. Local governments usually own the properties after buyouts and are responsible for their maintenance. Buyouts are most effective when they are coordinated so contiguous properties are purchased together, city services to these areas may be discontinued, and the ecology in the area can be restored to provide reduced flood risk and other natural benefits to the community.

Contact for more information: Katie Warnell, Cate Jaffe, and Lydia Olander, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Strategic floodplain buyouts are important for long-term resilience, but it is important to consider their impacts on social equity. This StoryMap examines the interactions between flood exposure, social vulnerability, and buyouts in New Bern, North Carolina.

Contact for more information: Sarah Lipuma, Nicholas School of the Environment