Sustainability

Natural Areas & Lanscaping with UNCW Sustainability leaf logo indicating that this is a collaborative effort.

It is no secret that UNCW's natural and landscaped environments are not only a perk of the university but also a draw for students, new employees, and visitors. "As North Carolina's coastal university, UNCW takes great pride in maintaining the natural allure and resources of the local area for all" is a fitting opening to Sustainability's mission statement. From general maintenance to post-hurricane recovery, UNCW Landscape Services works diligently to create, protect, and preserve beautiful areas using innovation and Best Management Practices to ensure the health and integrity of the environment and people.  The campus grounds are often used for volunteer experience, applied learning, and utilizing the campus as a living-learning laboratory.

UNCW maintains 1,631.73 acres of land, of which only 42.10 acres are covered by buildings. This acreage includes Ev-Henwood, a 174.39 acre Nature Preserve, and Bluethenthal, a Wildflower Preserve that is nestled in the campus center.

Landscape Management

Goal: Strive to have the most natural and maintenance-free landscape while being aesthetically pleasing. Implement sustainable landscape practices in 100% of managed grounds by 2030.

Accomplishments

Integrated Pest Management Plan

  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for the UNCW Campus (outline)
    At the University we have chosen to implement an IPM program of pest control. This will give us the opportunity to ensure the control methods are most environmentally conscious in our applications. A common sense approach to control, monitor, and manage a wide range of pests is our goal.
    The guidelines for our program will establish thresholds for the community, environment, and property in and surrounding the University. We will understand the lifecycle and their relationships with the environment and use control methods that are not only economically sensible but with a high level of environmental concern as well. We will strive for an organic program throughout but will use pesticides for the safety of the campus and control certain pests as needed.
    We will utilize the four-step method by using the following guideline:
    Thresholds We then will decide with input from necessary individuals to set the correct threshold for the pest. Some pest thresholds will be simple such as fire ants on campus. This would be an example where immediate control is needed due to the potential harm they may bring to a person on the campus. While 3-4 aphids on a shrub may not require any treatment.
    Scout and Monitor The program will require us to monitor pests on campus and changing levels of numbers. Not all pests will require treatments. Proper identification and control options are researched.
    Prevention Proper pruning, fertilizing and water management for plant material will give the plant the best possible way to fight against pests. Our strategy will be to grow the best plant to ensure it can withstand pest infestations.
    Control Once all methods are complete and we have a complete understanding of the pest and our options we can make the best control decision. We will always use the least toxic balance with the best control products when choosing the control method for the pest. If needed we will utilize additional pest control measures to control persistent or returning pests with target control measures. No broadcast or total treatment of pests on campus will be done unless the IPM procedures lead to the best-case scenario

Native and Ecologically Appropriate Plants

  • Landscaping uses native plants as much as possible. Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve in the center of campus protects that area from ever being destroyed.
  • UNCW students and New Hanover County Landfill collaborated to plant a state rare grass (Aristida condensate) onto 90 acres to the south of the current landfill.

Action Plan Steps

  • Incorporate sustainable practices into the Campus Master Plan to guide the preservation and enhancement of campus landscapes.
  • Certify IPM under IPM Institute's Green Shield Certification scheme.
  • Double UNCW’s stormwater resiliency (by gallons) by 2025.
  • Implement Filterra boxes, or similar design
  • Certify as a Bee Campus USA

Biodiversity

Goal: Preserve and enhance high-value University-owned natural areas for educational purposes and ecosystem health. 100% of high-value University-owned natural areas preserved and enhanced to maximize ecosystem health

Accomplishments

Conservation

  • In the center of UNCW's campus is Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve. In the fall of 1972, several of UNC Wilmington's biologists were concerned over the "progress" the university was making. New buildings, roads, and parking lots necessary for the institution to grow had begun to invade its valuable natural areas. In their November 30, 1972, proposal, they state that "if encroachment on this last area is to be prevented, steps must be taken immediately to dedicate it as an inviolate preserve." They requested that the approximately ten acres surrounding the nature trail be dedicated as a wildflower preserve by the University's Board of Trustees and be "forever protected from all other uses." The Trustees supported this action and officially set aside the land in 1973.
  • Also, UNCW has 174.39 Acres of protected woods and wetlands known as Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve. There are two self-guided learning trails and the preserve is open to the public for nature walks and educational experiences.
  • Storm debris from the 2014 winter storm waste was mulched to be used by UNCW Landscape Services
Assessing and Monitoring
  • Methodologies that have been employed to assess and monitor species include Rapid Assessment Protocols. This approach is a hierarchical approach going from the broad landscape scale to field scale to detail parts of the biological/physical/chemical scale. These methods allow for a more rapid inventory that may be followed by more detailed studies at the ecosystem to species level. Several rapid assessments have been done as part of UNCW classes. This has been used in wetland delineation as well and we have had the Land Management Group on campus demonstrate wetland delineation and subdividing of the campus natural areas using GIS. In addition, there has been an Environmental Assessment of a portion of the campus for construction purposes to identify any issues with ecosystem loss/species loss.
Vulnerable Species and Environmentally Sensitive Areas
  • Eastern North Carolina and UNCW are home to unique wetlands and therefore also unique species. For example, Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve is home to the vulnerable Venus Fly Trap.
    The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust works with landowners to conserve lands with scenic, recreational, historic and/or ecological value. This organization has land that overlaps with Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve.
  • The rotational burn plan for our forest has been set up since 2011. Prescribed burns are the best way to manage and improve the health of the fire-dependent longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. Since the longleaf pine ecosystem is globally threatened this is very important. We have also started a program, mostly informal right now to remove invasive species and improve the health of our landscape with much-reduced use of pesticides/herbicides.

Priority Action Plan Steps

  • Create a Plan, based on site-specific assessments, to guide the preservation and enhancement of University-owned natural areas.
  • Plant a number of trees to surpass those lost in Hurricane Florence.
  • Implement an ecosystem health monitoring lab.

Stormwater Management

Goal: Minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, potable water use in buildings and landscapes. Eliminate potable water usage in mechanical systems and landscape applications by 2050.

Accomplishments

Low Impact Development (LID)

  • Flexipave, porous concrete is used where possible to reduce runoff in all situations on campus. Small rain gardens and bioswales are used throughout the campus for the reduction of flow and runoff. Multiple ponds are permitted detention devices in housing as well as the central campus. Some of the water collected is used for irrigation. Bioswales in parking lots are the primary target. Gutter downspouts are secondary when possible.
  • Several rain gardens have been planted throughout the campus
    • DePaolo Hall, DeLoach Hall, and Suite Service Loop Rain Gardens were a partnership with the NC Coastal Federation and the City of Wilmington Heal Our Waterways program.
    •  Tidal Creek Rain Garden was part of a cooperative effort between UNCW (Academics and Landscape Services), City of Wilmington Stormwater Services, NC State, Tidal Creek, and Surfriders
    • Cultural Arts Building and Friday Hall Rain Gardens were created by UNCW
  • A stormwater master plan guides the university on how to deal with stormwater as a result of new construction. The plan also describes a large bio-retention pond where the polluted water coming into campus from local creeks will be filtered, reducing the water pollution downstream of the university.
  • UNCW uses amenities ponds to collect and store irrigation water for the campus. Pump systems are tied together for water movement to different locations as needed.

Action Plan Steps

    • Conduct a campus-wide audit to establish a water consumption baseline.
    • Compile a report on best management practices of water efficiency and conservation measures for landscape maintenance.
    • Complete an irrigation audit by U.S. EPA WaterSense certified professional.
    • Install "smart" irrigation controllers.
    • Expand the use of recycled water sources for irrigation.