Identifying current and future priority coastal habitats for protection in Atlantic Canada
Coastal islands in Atlantic Canada are known for their intactness, diversity of habitats, and significant biological and geological features. They provide isolated refuges for many species, areas of high intertidal productivity, unique climatic conditions that support boreal plant and bird communities, and act as buffers against coastal storm impacts from climate change. Many key ecosystem services are a result of interactions between a combination of habitat types within coastal island seascapes. Despite their value, biophysical and anthropogenic information at the island scale is missing throughout much of Atlantic Canada. Given the lack of stored information, government departments and conservation organizations are ill-equipped to make structured, evidence-based decisions about the acquisition and protection of coastal islands, and the valuation of those ecosystem functions and services. To address the gap in geospatial information and improve accessibility for island ecosystem valuation, we are developing an Atlantic Coastal Island (ACI) Database to house biophysical and anthropogenic geospatial data on islands in the Atlantic region. The development of the database employs a geospatial framework using a staged approach. In stage 1 we built upon/refined/improved upon an existing geospatial database built by the Kespukwitk/Southwest Nova Scotia Coastal Islands Working Group (NSNT, 2021). Among other products, we generated NDVI, LiDAR and topographical layers for 3,921 coastal islands in Nova Scotia. In subsequent stages, we will aim to duplicate the expanded Island Geospatial database that now exists for Nova Scotia to other provinces, likely beginning with Newfoundland. This presentation will offer an overview of what coastal island information now exists in Nova Scotia and outline anticipated products for Newfoundland, PEI and New Brunswick. Coastal island seascapes are synergistic land-sea systems and an important element in securing representative protected area networks. We expect the creation of a geospatial database of islands in the Atlantic Region will support structured, evidence-based conservation decisions as well as supporting other research objectives.