Approaching a national framework of coastal change in Canada
As coastal populations and settlements in Canada continue to grow and develop into the Anthropocene, land-use planners and other decision-makers must understand the hazards and potential instability of coastal environments in Canada. Approximately 6.1 million people (2021) live within 20 km of Canada’s marine coastline, which is the longest in the world (~243,000 km) and borders the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. These diverse and complex coastal regions are subject to strong winds, waves, high tides, storm surges, ice, and changing sea levels, which can change the landscape and significantly impact property, infrastructure, and human life. In response, researchers at Natural Resources Canada have conducted a comprehensive review of existing practices across the country to detect and monitor coastal change to inform a Canada-wide framework.
In the past, the Geological Survey of Canada has led research on coastal change and sensitivity to sea-level, partnering with provincial agencies where feasible. In 2000, an online platform was developed to share information on coastal environments, rates of change, and hazards with the general public. This platform was discontinued in 2010. Much of the site’s knowledge was generated through an extensive coastal monitoring program beginning in the 1970s (Taylor et al., 1995). There were up to 623 monitoring sites across Canada with cross-shore surveys, sediment samples, GPS measurements, and photographs to document geomorphic change. In addition, a Coastal Information System for classifying coastal landforms and materials along the nearshore, foreshore, and backshore zones began development in 1982 (Fricker & Forbes, 1988), and continued in development and use until recently (Couture et al., 2015). The monitoring programs are currently on an ad-hoc basis, although efforts are underway to culminate historical information into a single GIS database that will be publicly available. Given the changing climate and increasing societal risk, there is a need reinvigorate a national framework for investigating coastal change. This review provides insights into the latest methodology and understanding of coastal change across Canada, and documents provincial and territorial datasets that use a variety of formats, methods, and approaches.