The Battle for North Carolina's Coast

Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future

By Stanley R. Riggs, Dorothea von der Porten Ames, Stephen J. Culver, David J. Mallinson

160 pp., 6 x 9, 38 color and 3 b&w illus., 31 figs., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6167-4
    Published: May 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3486-2
    Published: September 2011
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7807-1
    Published: September 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4036-3
    Published: September 2011

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The North Carolina barrier islands, a 325-mile-long string of narrow sand islands that forms the coast of North Carolina, are one of the most beloved areas to live and visit in the United States. However, extensive barrier island segments and their associated wetlands are in jeopardy. In The Battle for North Carolina's Coast, four experts on coastal dynamics examine issues that threaten this national treasure.

According to the authors, the North Carolina barrier islands are not permanent. Rather, they are highly mobile piles of sand that are impacted by sea-level rise and major storms and hurricanes. Our present development and management policies for these changing islands are in direct conflict with their natural dynamics. Revealing the urgency of the environmental and economic problems facing coastal North Carolina, this essential book offers a hopeful vision for the coast's future if we are willing to adapt to the barriers' ongoing and natural processes. This will require a radical change in our thinking about development and new approaches to the way we visit and use the coast. Ultimately, we cannot afford to lose these unique and valuable islands of opportunity. This book is an urgent call to protect our coastal resources and preserve our coastal economy.

About the Authors

Stanley R. Riggs is Distinguished Research Professor and Harriot College Distinguished Professor of geology at East Carolina University.
For more information about Stanley R. Riggs, visit the Author Page.

Dorothea V. Ames is a research instructor in geology at East Carolina University.
For more information about Dorothea von der Porten Ames, visit the Author Page.

Stephen J. Culver is Harriot College Distinguished Professor and chair of geology at East Carolina University.
For more information about Stephen J. Culver, visit the Author Page.

David J. Mallinson is associate professor of geology at East Carolina University.
For more information about David J. Mallinson, visit the Author Page.


“Readers will walk away with a deep understanding of the forces that created and continue to rework North Carolina’s unsettled coast.”--Raleigh News and Observer

“An exceptional, affordable book with clear prose, succinct logic, a fine bibliography, and 72 superb color illustrations . . . . Riggs and colleagues offer a reasonable plan that, if implemented soon, will protect the natural shore system and mitigate its erosion rates, as well as nourish North Carolina’s resource-based coastal economy over the long term. Highly recommended.”--Choice

“The real strength of The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast is the numerous photographs, diagrams, and maps (most of which are in color) that do an excellent job of illustrating North Carolina’s coastal dynamics. . . . It would be difficult to find authors better acquainted with the geology of this particular coastline.”--Environmental History

“The authors make you feel being physically on the North Carolina barrier islands, and they make you see how both gradual processes and events shape the barriers, erode inlets, close inlets again, etc.”--Geologos

“Riggs and his co-authors deserve a lot of credit for their ideas. Hopefully somebody will take them seriously.”--Lawyers, Guns and Money blog

"No oceanographic group in the country knows more about any North American coastal segment than this group under the leadership of Stan Riggs, whose 40 year career of study has made him a North Carolina state treasure and a coastal icon. This fascinating and informative book provides the field evidence of past sea-level rises for all to see. Through the book's beautiful aerial photos the mysteries of how barrier islands and beaches work are revealed, and we are reminded that the coast is actively evolving as the sea level rise accelerates. The authors emphasize that the past is the key to the future and urge us to prepare for sea level rise now. We must listen to them."--Orrin H. Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University