Rethinking Responses to Coastal Problems: An Analysis of the Opportunities and Constraints for Canada
Mercer Clarke, Colleen S.L.
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This research challenged popular assumptions that Canadian coastal environments remain relatively un-impacted by human activities, and that current practices in coastal management are sufficient to ensure sustainability of coastal resources and communities. Using a systematic analysis of the literature, the performance of integrated coastal management, as reported for other nations, was examined, and shared impediments to progress were identified. Drawing from these insights, it was determined that past and current efforts to implement integrated management of the coasts in Canada have encountered similar constraints. An intensive review of state of the coast information in Canada was conducted, including an assessment of the indicators used to monitor change in coastal environments and coastal communities. The research concluded that there was insufficient information to support expectations that Canada’s coastal environments remain un-impacted. Information on actual conditions on the Atlantic coastal of Nova Scotia was supplemented with new research on the potential linkages between changing land cover and pressures on coastal receiving environments. Using geospatial technology and field investigations in local water quality, land cover ratios in primary watersheds were compared to nutrient concentrations in coastal waters. Working at a coarse landscape scale of data, in some embayments potential linkages were identified between reduced forest cover and increased nitrogen levels in rivers and bays. The research findings were also applied to the development of two practical tools for use in negotiated land use planning. To avoid adverse effects to coastal receiving waters, the GreenField Ratio proposes maximum and minimum thresholds for land cover types within primary watersheds. The Coastal Sensitivity Rating facilitates an improved understanding of the cumulative factors affecting the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems to impact. Responding to the challenges faced by current initiatives in coastal management, the research proposes an alternative approach for Canada that does not require integration of coastal authorities. As outlined, the CoastWORKS framework relies on collaborative efforts within existing institutional and community organizations to achieve needed change in policy and practice. CoastWORKS defines coastal landscapes, sets principles to guide action, establishes a list of priority goals, and can be accomplished through individual local actions and collaborative governance.