The Pamlico Sound
By Carlton Baker
The complex ecosystem of North Carolina estuaries is harmed by changes to the land bordering and surrounding the estuaries and by contamination of river and ocean water. Although the North Carolina estuaries contain 3,000 square miles of surface water, 30,000 square miles of land drains into the Albemarle-Pamlico system. As land is developed for human habitation and use, roads, bridges, culverts, sewage systems, pipelines, and dams change the flow of water through the ecosystem. Whereas wetlands soak up water like a sponge and settle contaminants in the ground, asphalt and concrete deflect water so that it runs off with all its contaminants directly into the rivers, estuaries, and the sea.
The largest North Carolina estuary is Pamlico Sound. Water drains into this system from eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, from the Chowan, Roanoke, Pasquotank, Pamlico, and Neuse Rivers, from marshes, swamps, forests, and grasslands.