- Georgia’s coast boasts some of the highest quality habitats along North America’s Atlantic Region, including salt marshes, tidal creeks, oyster reefs, maritime forests, freshwater rivers, longleaf pine forests and barrier islands that are some of the most threatened habitats in the United States.
- The Nature Conservancy’s coastal conservation work in Georgia encompasses five rivers, 14 barrier islands, nine estuaries, hundreds of miles of open sea and sand beach, and thousands of miles of tidal shoreline.
- The Nature Conservancy is working with private, federal, state and local partners on projects ranging from land acquisition and management to influencing development practices.
Any time you see water in Georgia, whether you’re driving over one of the state’s mighty rivers or walking under an umbrella during a rain storm, you might be seeing a part of the Georgia coast.
Well, maybe not quite any part of the state.
But it’s true that much of the water in Georgia eventually drains to the rivers and tributaries that make their way to the Atlantic Ocean.
That’s why The Nature Conservancy’s coastal conservation work in Georgia is so important.
Coastal forest at Altama in Darien, GA. © The Nature Conservancy (Sherry Crawley)
The Georgia Coast Project includes more than 100 miles of coastline, 14 barrier islands, 300 square miles of open Atlantic Ocean, nine major estuaries (salt marsh and open water), 3,400 miles of tidal shoreline, expansive areas of freshwater tidal forests, maritime forests and long-leaf pine forests.
Vast forests of pines, cabbage palms, and live oaks draped with lacey Spanish moss stand over a dense understory filled with shrubs and smaller trees like American holly, cherry laurel, red bay, saw palmetto, and wax myrtle.
This forest landscape gently eases into expansive salt marshes. Here, blankets of smooth cordgrass unfold to meet the western edge of barrier islands where dunes of hard-packed white quartz sand are grown over with sea oats, pennyworts, and morning glories. The islands, fringed with oyster reefs, beaches and salt marshes that help buffer the coast from storms.
Wood stork rooker at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in north McIntosh County, GA. © Marc Del Santro
Birding along the Georgia Coast is a year-round affair. Shorebird and songbird migration in spring and fall brings hundreds of birders to the barrier islands. Winter brings ducks, sparrows, and millions of tree swallows. Summer takes birders to rookeries for wood storks, and beaches for nesting plovers and oystercatchers. Learn more and visit Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail.
The sheer beauty of the Georgia coast is enough to make it distinctive. But the staggering diversity of plant and animal life, combined with these unique estuarine and near-shore habitats, create an area that is truly extraordinary. The Altamaha River Delta alone is visited each year by more than 55,000 shorebirds.
Unfortunately, these areas are also some of the most threatened habitats in the United States, making the plants and animals that depend on them vulnerable as well. Incompatible development and forestry practices, hardened shorelines, sea level rise and climate change, invasive species, pollution and water use and management are just some of the issues we face.
Wolf Island in the Altamaha River Delta. © Blake Gordon Photography
Since the Conservancy first began working on the Georgia coast with the protection of Wassaw Island, Wolf Island and Egg Island in 1969, the pace has not slowed. Nor has the urgency.
Our current work includes:
- Protecting coastal land
- Sharing expertise
- Assisting with policy making
- Restoring coastal habitats
- Developing methodologies for living shorelines
- Working with communities to increase their coastal resiliency and health
- Ocean mapping and database development
Get involved in our work to protect the Georgia coast! Read more below and find opportunities to experience this incredible place.
Our desire for this delicacy, combined with other factors, has led to a decline in oyster reefs on the Georgia coast and around the world. But we are using science to bring them back
Careful planning based on science can help avoid conflicts when it comes to managing our oceans. Read about cutting-edge maps that will help leaders make more informed decisions
That Benjamin Franklin Did: bringing Chinese tallow to the Georgia coast. Watch a video about this invasive plant