Healthy Coastal Ecosystems Background
The natural features of the State of South Carolina are diverse and striking. South Carolina contains 2,876 miles of tidal shoreline, 500,000 acres of tidal bottoms, 504,450 acres of salt marsh, (representing 20 percent of the East Coast total), some 4.5 million acres of freshwater wetlands (covering about 24 percent of the land area of the state), and 10,000 square miles of coastal ocean. The South Carolina coastline is characterized by more than 165 linear miles of beaches and dotted with more than 40 barrier and sea islands. Five major estuaries drain major watersheds originating from as far away as western North Carolina.
The coastal and marine resources of South Carolina are directly affected by (1) human influences throughout the watersheds in the coastal zone, (2) physical and natural processes of the state’s adjacent coastal ocean, and (3) changes in climate and weather patterns. The focus of this program area is to support research and outreach efforts to assess and document coastal and ocean environmental health, and understand the best management practices for maintaining and/or enhancing the health of coastal natural resources in response to the needs of targeted constituencies and decision-makers. Consortium stakeholders identified an improved understanding of natural processes, coastal and ocean ecosystem health, influences of climate and weather, additional landscape features such as stormwater ponds and other added natural or built infrastructure, and long-term conservation of natural and cultural resources as high priority areas for maintaining resilience, health, and well-being of our coastal communities. In addition, they suggested that the development of predictive tools for coastal ocean processes and estuarine water quality events, as well as determination of the economic and social value of resources and management tradeoffs, should be priority areas. Generating new baseline information is critically important in order to gain a better understanding of the effects and impacts that natural and anthropogenic influences are having on how our coastal and ocean environments function.