Pocosins are naturally occurring, freshwater, shrub-dominated wetlands of the Southeastern Coastal Plain with deep, acidic, sandy, peat soils. Pocosins are formed by the accumulation of organic matter, resembling black muck, that is built up over thousands of years in the unique conditions that exist on these wetlands. Several inches to more than 10 feet of organic matter can be built up under the correct conditions, making these lands a carbon sink for North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula is the site of the greatest pocosin acreage in the US, but pocosins were historically even more extensive in North Carolina. The pocosins that have been drained and converted to other land uses now emit a significant amount of carbon as CO2.

Restoring pocosins to their natural condition has the potential to sequester and store carbon, reduce the risk of coastal flooding, improve water quality, provide habitat for biodiversity, improve ecosystem health, protect against wildfires, and defend against sea level rise.

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

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge work together to accomplish pocosin restoration at landscape scale. The purpose is to restore the natural hydrology of peatlands by raising the water table, allowing these wetlands to retain the ability to sequester carbon.

Contact for more information: Sara Ward, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Brian Boutin, The Nature Conservancy

Researchers at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University are updating maps of NC pocosin status; existing maps were created by the NC Division of Coastal Management in 1999 using data from the 1980s-1990s. Updated maps classify pocosin areas by their hydrology (drained or undrained) and vegetation (cleared or intact).

The updated maps can be used to identify pocosin areas that may be suitable for restoration. Overlaying the pocosin maps with land ownership information can identify restorable pocosin areas on state-owned or conservation lands. The next phase of this project involves quantifying pocosin soil carbon stocks and annual sequestration to improve the natural and working lands carbon estimates in the greenhouse gas inventory.

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