Important Message about LEARN NC

LEARN NC is evaluating its role in the current online education environment as it relates directly to the mission of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education (UNC-CH SOE). We plan to look at our ability to facilitate the transmission of the best research coming out of UNC-CH SOE and other campus partners to support classroom teachers across North Carolina. We will begin by evaluating our existing faculty and student involvement with various NC public schools to determine what might be useful to share with you.

Don’t worry! The lesson plans, articles, and textbooks you use and love aren’t going away. They are simply being moved into the new LEARN NC Digital Archive. While we are moving away from a focus on publishing, we know it’s important that educators have access to these kinds of resources. These resources will be preserved on our website for the foreseeable future. That said, we’re directing our resources into our newest efforts, so we won’t be adding to the archive or updating its contents. This means that as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study changes in the future, we won’t be re-aligning resources. Our full-text and tag searches should make it possible for you to find exactly what you need, regardless of standards alignment.

a wrack line

Figure 7. A wrack line. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

Moving over to the east bank of the river, we can follow River Road to the River Road Park, the site of the fishing pier you saw at the start of this tour. The photo here shows a tangled mat of Spartina debris washed ashore by a storm.

Why aren’t maintenance personnel cleaning this mess up? This stranded debris serves as a vital nutrient source in the estuary. The grasses, inedible to most organisms in the estuary, are degraded by bacteria and fungi. The bacteria and fungi serve as a primary food source for snails and crabs, which are in turned preyed upon by birds and small mammals. Each winter the Spartina dies off, and the dead husks fall into the water. If this debris were carried out to sea, along with the bacteria, the estuary would not be able to sustain itself. Luckily, winter storms wash the debris ashore, where conditions are perfect for decay. The debris also provides shelter for the crabs, mice, and alligators (warning signs in the area attest to the alligators). Finally, the remnants of the decayed plants serve to build up the soils and sediments in the estuary.

Living grasses are also colonized by bacteria when submerged. Snails such as marsh periwinkles (Littorina irrorata) scrape the bacteria off of living grasses, moving up and down the blades in time with the tides.