Better Planning from Better Understanding: Incorporating Historically Derived Data into Modern Coastal Management Planning on the Halifax Peninsula
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As the terrestrial and marine effects of climate change continue to intensify, the value of native habitats like coastal wetlands is becoming clear. A sound understanding of how these ecosystems work is of vital importance to managers as well as a variety of other stakeholders. Currently, the practice of assessing wetland loss lies almost entirely within the realm of the natural sciences. While historical ecologists and other social scientists offer valuable insight into the cultural and social influences that may have affected the current state of the environment in any particular region, this is generally where their contribution ends. Historians, for example, rarely venture into the realm of quantitative environmental analysis. This paper examines the challenges associated with using historically derived quantitative data to better understand coastal ecology, and how those challenges can be overcome. Using GIS technology combined with historical maps, this paper establishes baseline ecological data for the Halifax Peninsula as it existed at the end of the eighteenth century. The resulting model is used to answer a range of questions regarding the nature of the Halifax Peninsula near the end of the eighteenth century, how the ecology of the Halifax Peninsula has changed as the city has evolved through time, and the practical and theoretical management implications of incorporating historically derived data into the planning process.