ENVIRONMENT

Aug 20, 2019
How do you protect a plant that grows only on rocky outcrops at high elevations in the Amphibolite Mountains of northwestern North Carolina? It takes a team. 
Jul 29, 2019
After visiting a city with a waterfront, maybe stopping for a drink and a bite to eat along whichever river or ocean it’s built along, I’m usually left with one overriding thought: “Wow, Charlotte could really use some of this.” Water plays a prominent role in the design and history of most cities, whether it be a river, bay or ocean. And Charlotte’s skyline and downtown sit tantalizingly close-but-yet-so-far from a major river and lake system. So, the question looms: Why isn’t Charlotte built on the water?  It’s a straightforward question I realized I had never actually asked, despite a decade living in Charlotte. So I called up an expert. 
Jul 24, 2019
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.
Jul 23, 2019
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.
Jul 01, 2019
When you think of rare species, your mind might turn to majestic tigers, ferocious grizzly bears or majestic elephants. But how often do you think of bogs, sandbars and the slimy rocks coated in spray? A recent Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant and Natural Communities Workshop in Hendersonville highlighted the importance of these unusual ecosystems for many of our region’s rare plants. Such environments play an important role in our state, but many are threatened.
Jun 24, 2019
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.
Jun 17, 2019
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.
Jun 11, 2019
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. 
Jun 04, 2019
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. 
May 28, 2019
It turns out you can see disparities on the map in Charlotte across way more dimensions than traditional measures like household income. 
May 22, 2019
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. 
May 20, 2019
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.
May 13, 2019
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.
May 06, 2019
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.
May 03, 2019
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. 
May 01, 2019
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. 
Apr 26, 2019
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.
Apr 25, 2019
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.
Mar 28, 2019
 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. 
Mar 19, 2019
Beginning birders face some notorious identification challenges.  Empidonax flycatchers and “confusing fall warblers” come to mind.  Sparrows also test a birder’s proficiency.  Not only do they tend to skulk in heavy brush, making it hard to get a decent look, most are small and mottled brown, with subtle distinguishing characteristics.  I’ve been in the field with expert birders who are sometimes reduced to calling one an LBJ, short for “little brown job.”
Mar 18, 2019
No matter how much I hate to admit, I have found myself at times lost in the woods. Not just disoriented, but completely turned around. One such trip was on a property adjoining the Birkhead Wilderness Area, 6,000 acres of open forest, and it was on my birthday.
Jan 30, 2019
For years, food waste has been cast as a financial and moral issue, with money and opportunities to feed the hungry lost when food is tossed in the garbage. It also is increasingly becoming an environmental problem as scraps and spoiled food fill landfills across the country, where they emit potent greenhouse gases.
Jan 29, 2019
For vegetable gardeners in the Piedmont, 2018 was a challenging year. The weather whipsawed between mundane and extreme.
Jan 02, 2019
This book aspires to be much more than just another field guide. It’s a longitudinal documentation of avian life in the Piedmont, a region undergoing tremendous change.
Dec 31, 2018
As the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019, we are reflecting on how our history and growth mirror both the region we focus on and the university that nurtures us.
Nov 28, 2018
Day by day, hour by hour, trees are dropping their leaves, allowing us to appreciate their architectural structure.  While growing conditions can shape a tree’s form – a white oak’s limbs will be truncated in a crowded forest, but in the middle of a pasture, they’ll sprawl – each species also has its own inherent traits.
Oct 24, 2018
Monarch butterflies generally start arriving in the Uwharries in May.  Their timing seems to coincide with the flowering of the common milkweed in our grasslands. 
Sep 13, 2018
In an ozone garden, the plants can tell an astute observer whether ozone pollution is a problem.
Sep 06, 2018
A special spot of ancient prairie, never worked or plowed, has been preserved.
Aug 23, 2018
An invasive berry vine that’s trying to take over the world – including a Charlotte park.
Jul 25, 2018
On a preserved tract in Gaston County, one determined man is fighting a long-term war to remove the invasive plant species that choke out native plants and wildlife.
Jul 03, 2018
It was time for young barn owl, raised at the Carolina Raptor Center, to be sent into the world. Would she be safe?
Jun 19, 2018
Charlotte first adopted a greenhouse gas emission reduction resolution in 2007.  Now, 11 years later, the City Council is considering a new resolution to move the initiative ahead.
Jun 13, 2018
I recently stumbled on an especially interesting habitat while exploring the flora and fauna on a site that once held granite quarries.
Jun 06, 2018
You may not have considered how justice, the environment and climate change intersect. But Jacqueline Patterson has.
May 31, 2018
I saw it coming. Every time I saw the cable wrapped around that oak, I’d throw up my hands and think, “Too late now!” The oak slowly succumbed to strangulation. Last spring, it didn’t leaf out. Now, poison ivy creeps up the trunk, hiding my shame.
May 24, 2018
Moving back to Charlotte after 10 years away, I noticed changes in Latta Park. Were my memories idealized? Had it always looked like this? Or had it been neglected in my absence? Commentary.
May 09, 2018
On the drab trunk of a single willow oak, one of many lining the street, my eye landed on a large, oblong cluster, golden against the mouse-brown bark.
Apr 10, 2018
A hunt for big trees turned up a national champion longleaf pine in an out-of-the-way spot in North Carolina.
Apr 04, 2018
April – the month that quickens the pulse of birders across the Piedmont. Songbirds also feel the stirring, the restless urge to head north. But there’s a shadow to the joy of spring migration.
Feb 08, 2018
Two majestic owls from the Artic tundra came south to North Carolina this winter. Only one made it back to the frozen north.  
Jan 17, 2018
This special place, open to the public, provides shelter for songbirds, egrets, ducks and even (sometimes) wood storks.
Dec 07, 2017
Our boat was full of decoys and camouflage. As soon as we stopped, we threw out mallard and wood duck decoys and began to conceal ourselves.
Nov 28, 2017
Walking a property recently, we stumbled on a tree with heavily furrowed bark. It took a few minutes of pondering, but we finally decided it was a cottonwood tree.
Nov 14, 2017
One night, years ago, Mama looked out the window to a hay field and, for a moment, she wondered if thousands of tiny aliens had landed on Earth and settled in the grass.
Oct 25, 2017
The oldest trees east of the Rockies – some believed to be more than 2,000 years old – are found along this N.C. river.
Oct 17, 2017
Few plants are as gorgeous in fall as sumacs, a native plant that can also thrive in gardens. 
Oct 17, 2017
Projections are for the Catawba-Wateree River watershed to reach its capacity to provide water to the growing Charlotte region by 2065. With no state laws managing water rights, what happens?
Oct 03, 2017
There will be no question what you’ve found if you see a star-nosed mole. The unusual animal can even detect seismic wave vibrations. Loss of wetlands, where it lives, can negatively affect this amazing creature.  
Sep 18, 2017
As I left town for a quick trip over Labor Day weekend, a dozen hungry monarch caterpillars were munching away on my swamp milkweed.  When I returned 32 hours later, they had vanished.