reefs

On the Edge: Life on North Carolina's Reefs

Most people associate reef systems with tropical islands and warm, shallow waters. 

However, those are coral reefs—reefs made of living creatures.

Believe it or not, there are two unique reef systems off the North Carolina coast. They are made of rock but they are still reefs, and while they aren't made of ocean life, they are covered with it. 

The first system is found primarily on the edge of the continental shelf, about 75 miles offshore. There are smaller systems rising periodically from the ocean floor about 40 miles off the coast as well. 

Marsh Memories

As I stood in Middle Marsh, felt the warm breeze and watched the seabirds fly above me while the estuary waters swirled around my legs, I felt so at peace.

“This is so beautiful,” I said to Dr. Rodriguez, as he took measurements of the oyster reefs he studies.

“It is awesome,” Dr. Rodriguez agreed. “What’s really amazing, in addition to everything around us now, is how quickly the tide comes in. The water will be up to your waste in a couple hours.”

Reef Life

Researchers discover natural oyster reefs grow fast enough to keep up with the projected rise in sea levels, suggesting oyster reefs could be used for storm protection and erosion control, all the while doing what oyster reefs naturally do, which is filter the water and provide a habitat for fish.

Life on the Rocks

North Carolina's rocky offshore reefs provide nurseries for juvenile fish, foraging grounds, hiding places, and spawning grounds. Research into offshore wind energy has prompted a new look at the health and diversity of life on the rocky reefs off the NC coast, where wind turbines could be located.

Remembering the Undersea World

Everybody experiences what I like to call “Ah-Ha” moments; those events or experiences that change your thinking or perspective regarding the world around you. If we are lucky, and if our minds are open to them, we can all experience many such moments.

Sometimes those moments happen during real-life experiences, such as a vacation or a particularly fascinating class at school. I was fortunate to see, albeit from a long distance, an Apollo moon rocket launch when I was a child. That opened my mind up to outer space.