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Carolinian Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes

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About the Carolinian Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes

The Carolinian Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes is a region encompassing the Barrier Islands along the east coast of the U.S., extending from Bodie Island, through most of North Carolina, south barely into South Carolina, ending at North Myrtle Beach. It completely surrounds Pamlico sound, the largest lagoon in eastern North America, as well as several smaller bodies of water farther south.

This region consists of barrier islands, coastal marshes, sand dunes, and beaches. Vegetation cover includes grasses in marshes, dune communities, and maritime forest on the most sheltered sites. Maritime forests here include such species as live oak (Quercus virginiana), darlington oak (Quercus hemisphaerica), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), max myrtle (Morella cerifera), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), and in the south, cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto).

The barrier islands here are extensively developed in places, although there are also stretches where the land is completely protected as nature preserves. The northernmost portions of this region are most heavily and densely developed, probably owing to their greater proximity to dense population centers. The dominant use of this area is tourism and recreation. The more inland portion of this region have also been drained and developed in places, but large portions of it are left as intact marshland. In many areas, marshland can be found behind heavily-developed barrier islands.

To the north, this region is replaced by the Virginian Barrier Islands and Coastal Marshes; this border is arbitrary and represents a gradual tranistion. The region near this border is particularly high in plant diversity. At the southern end of this region, the barrier islands end and the Carolina Flatwoods directly border the ocean. Inland, the flatwoods also border this region to the northwest, except in the northeasternmost portions of this region where they are separated from this region by the Chesapeake-Pamlico Lowlands and Tidal Marshes. In a few areas, it directly borders the Swamps and Peatlands.

References

1. Comstock, J.A.; Griffith, G.E.; Omernik, J.M. "Ecoregions of North Carolina: Regional Descriptions", (2002) Web.