The condition of North Carolina's coastal habitats can be affected by a variety of natural and human induced alterations and stressors. Human activities can remove or alter the physical structure of habitats, degrade water quality, modify flows, or stress a habitat community. While much has been done to minimize adverse impacts, small but cumulatively significant impacts continue to threaten our coastal ecosystem. The table below provides a qualitative rating of the severity of various threats, with white being no known impact and red being the most severe. Click on the threat category to learn more about that threat. 

WC = Water Column; SHB = Shell Bottom; SAV = Submerged Aquatic Vegetation; WL = Wetlands; SB = Soft Bottom; HB = Hard Bottom

Threat Category

Source and/or impact







Physical threats/ hydrologic modifications Boating activity            
Dredging (navigation channels, marinas, basins)            
Fishing gear impacts            
Jetties and groins            
Obstructions (dams, culverts, locks)            
Shoreline stabilization            
Upland development            
Water withdrawls            
Water quality degradation-sources Land use and non-point sources            
Water-dependent development (marinas and docks)            
Point sources            
Water quality degradation-causes Marine debris            
Microbial contamination            
Nutrients and eutrophication            
Saline discharge            
Suspended sedmiment and turbidity            
Toxic chemicals            
Disease and microbial stressors            
Non-native, invasive or nuisance species            
Weather Events