North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
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What is Your
Ecological Address?
Your river basin is just one part of your ecological address. You know what street you live on, what town or county you live in, and what state you call home, but do you know where you live ecologically? Your ecological address can tell you a lot about your place in the natural world, whether your street address places you in the middle of a city, on a rural road in the country, or somewhere in between.

There are NINE Parts to Your Ecological Address.

RIVER BASIN
You’ve already learned about this one. Which river basin do you live in? Can you find out where your water comes from when you turn on the faucet? Where does your wastewater go?
TOPOGRAPHY
Topography describes the terrain of the land. Is it flat or hilly where you live? Do you live in the coastal plain, Piedmont, or mountains? Draw a map of the hills and valleys around your school or home. You can get a topographical map of where you live from the North Carolina Geological Survey. Can you locate your school on the map? Is it in a valley or on a ridge?
WETLANDS
A wetland is an area where the level of the surface water is at, near, or above the ground surface for part of the year. Wetlands act like a giant sponge. They soak up water when it rains which keeps places from flooding. They also help clean pollutants out of water. Finally, they give a home to most of the seafood that people like to eat. Do you live near a wetland?
GROUNDWATER
Groundwater is the water found in cracks and spaces between sand, gravel, and rocks below the ground surface. Many people in North Carolina get their drinking water from groundwater sources. Where does your drinking water come from?
CLIMATE
Climate refers to the average weather conditions in an area. How much rain or snow do you see in a year? How hot or cold does it get where you live? Put out a rain gauge at your school to find out how much rain you get. Write or call a local meteorologist to find out what the average rainfall is in your area.
SOIL
Soil is the loose top layer of the earth’s surface. It is made up of weathered rock and decayed organic (living or once living) matter. What kind of soil do you see where you live? What color is it? Does it have sand in it? Clay?
AIR
Air, made up of mostly nitrogen and oxygen, surrounds the earth and makes life possible. Like water, air can be polluted. What kinds of things do you do that might pollute the air around you?
BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity is the number of plants and animals in an area. People depend on biodiversity for food and medicine. Sometimes when one plant or animal becomes extinct, the whole ecosystem feels the effects. Do a biodiversity survey of your school grounds. How many different plants and animals can you find? Which plants and animals are native to North Carolina and which were introduced from somewhere else?
ENERGY
Energy is the ability to do work. We need energy for everything we do. Our bodies get energy from food. We use energy in the form of fossil fuels to light up our homes and travel in cars and buses. Think about your lunch. How much energy was used to grow the food? How much energy was used to get it to you? How much energy are you getting from it?