Air pollution, runoff and sediment in our waterways, disappearing open space and development chipping away at our tree canopy: Charlotte’s facing many environmental challenges with one common cause.
Most people who hike trails don’t take time to think about who makes and maintains paths through the woods.
In the Uwharries, as in most recreational areas, most trail-building is done by dedicated volunteers.
The National Land Trust Rally put on annually by the Land Trust Alliance, the umbrella organization for land trusts, is in Raleigh this year. The Land Trust Alliance also administers the national accreditation program and serves as a clearinghouse and learning center for land trust staff across the U.S. The rally includes optional field trips on Wednesday and Thursday of the conference week hosted by local land trusts, giving us an opportunity to show off the Piedmont region.
Today it’s hard for many, especially newcomers, to imagine Charlotte’s interdependency with the small towns and rural communities surrounding Mecklenburg County. But Charlotte’s emergence as a New South city was the result of a manufacturing economy established throughout the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That economy was mostly built on textiles, with its concentration not in the urban core (as was the case with Pittsburgh’s steel industry or Detroit’s auto sector), but in small towns scattered throughout the Carolina Piedmont – where brick textile mills were built along the banks of the South Fork River in Gaston County and the Great Falls of the Catawba in South Carolina, and along the rail lines that stretched in every direction to places like Kannapolis and Hamlet.
Hellbenders - a species of large salamander with an evocative name - can tell us something about the health of a river. Macroinvertebrates are good indicators of water health across the state. Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and arachnids can all tolerate water quality in different degrees. Mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, hellgrammites are all highly sensitive to pollution. Their presence anywhere indicates good water quality. Dragonflies, damselflies, crayfish and clams are somewhat tolerant of pollution. Black fly larvae, lunged snails, and leeches are all pollution-tolerant.
Common rush (Juncus effusus) is often used in riparian restoration projects. It provides cover for wildlife and helps stabilize soil and filter stormwater runoff, and it can be found throughout the Uwharries. Jim Matthews, professor emeritus at UNC Charlotte and founder of Habitat Assessment and Restoration Professionals, calls it the “Cadillac of wetland plants” because it can grow in standing water but also tolerate dry spells.
Found primarily along the Southeast coast, white-bracted sedge also grows with abandon in wet, sunny meadows you can create in your Charlotte backyard. The flowers attract a crazy array of pollinators - bumblebees and honeybees, bizarre bugs and colorful moths, tiny bees and flies. And the bracts remain attractive deep into fall, even after a hard freeze has turned them to parchment.
Most people who visit the Uwharrie region, east of Charlotte, for recreation probably know about spots like the Uwharrie Trail and Morrow Mountain State Park. Or maybe you’re used to driving west, to Crowders Mountain State Park. However, there are a lot of lesser-known gems in the region that many tourists miss out on, and some that even locals have never been to see.
The world uses millions of tons of phosphorus per year in fertilizer, and almost all of that is mined. But Charlotte Water plans to start extracting the mineral from a new source: What you put down the drain.
Wildlife habitat comes in all shapes and sizes, as does opportunity for improving it. The rural nature of the Uwharries and other areas around Charlotte allows us to restore grasslands and forests on a landscape scale, but the same management techniques have also proven successful on smaller parcels in urban parks and nature preserves. One of the most promising interventions in the rapidly developing Piedmont is to enhance backyard habitat.
From field sparrows to gnatcatchers to scarlet tanagers, from local residents to neotropical migrants from thousands of miles away, there’s a wealth of biodiversity of birds in the Uwharries near Charlotte.
Eight years ago, Charlotte set a goal for itself: 50 percent tree canopy coverage across the city by 2050. But because of rapid development and an aging tree population, the city likely won’t reach that goal, officials said last week. Instead, they’re refocusing on smaller, neighborhood-level targets and other “fifty-themed” tree promotion efforts.
At first glance, the proposed fiscal 2020 budget for Mecklenburg Park and Recreation looks like a slam dunk. With the clarity of a slow-mo replay, however, stripped of its glitter and pizzazz, the budget looks a lot more like a mediocre layup.
The Sandhills are one of the more diverse landscapes in the state, mainly because longleaf pine ecosystems house so many unique and endemic species. The transition area between Sandhills and Uwharries is especially diverse as you may find species found in the coastal plain, Sandhills, Piedmont and the mountains all in one place.
Mecklenburg County is poised to substantially increase funding for its park system, after years of stagnating budgets and staff cuts following the 2008 recession. It could help the county improve its ranking of dead last among major U.S. cities for parks and open space.
Responsible and thoughtful design entails understanding the relationship between the built environment and its impact on ecological systems. With 6.7 billion people projected to live in urban areas worldwide by 2050, there are many achievable strategies that should resonate with architects, developers and local governments to sustain the natural environment even as growth and development continue.
When I was a novice birder, attending bird walks in New York’s Central Park, I asked the leader which field guide I should buy. Without missing a beat, and without a hint of sarcasm, he replied, “All of them.” While I’ve come to appreciate his wisdom, there’s also something to be said for having a basic, indispensable guide you can turn to again and again.
As cities continue to grow and thrive, with downtowns reviving and old neighborhoods being redeveloped, is their future still really in the suburbs? That's what one advocate said this week at a real estate forum, provoking debate about growth, transit and sprawl.
I was a preschooler with a bad case of eczema so my pediatrician sent us to an allergist in downtown Greensboro with an office on Elm Street. Growing up in the Uwharries, I’d never laid my country eyes on anything so grand — block after block of offices and shops towering over the sidewalks.
Find the story in the numbers. See below to explore facts about Environment in the Charlotte region. See how the region's counties compare to one another and how the metro area compares to peers around the country.
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Welcome to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute's data portal. See below to explore facts about the Charlotte region from among 11 topic areas, compare your county to the metro region and the state, and explore in-depth data from...
Charlotte's carbon footprint is dwarfed by other metro centers like Washington and Atlanta, but within the Charlotte region some areas produce much more carbon than others. Interactive maps from UC Berkeley now let you see the differences by ZIP code. (Graphic: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network)