Besides accommodating most of its population and continuing population growth, British Columbia’s coasts provide substantial economic, environmental and social services. Yet British Columbia coasts are increasingly exposed and vulnerable to various hazards due to changing weather events and increased sea level, leading to economic, social and health impacts. Coastal vegetation has been shown to play an important role in reducing vulnerability to coastal hazards through wave attenuation, sediment capture, erosion reduction, and mitigation of storm surge. The benefits of coastal vegetation depend, however, on factors such as the storm characteristics and coastal landscapes. They also depend on economic, social, and institutional factors. My project examines the potential of green infrastructure (e.g., saltmarshes) to reduce losses from coastal flooding in the context of sea-level rise and storm surge, focusing on the Salish Sea region. It aims to develop information and insights into: (1) what types of green infrastructure solutions are technically feasible in this region; (2) their social, economic, and institutional benefits and costs in different contexts; and (3) how knowledge about such solutions can be diffused within and across communities.
Adaptation for sea level rise - Feature from Spring 2016 Newsletter
The District of North Saanich Municipal Council has enlisted the help and research of PICS UBC Fellow Tugce Conger, as part of a major initiative to plan for climate change, particularly the local impacts of projected sea level rise.
Tugce’s PhD research examines the potential of ‘green infrastructure’, such as saltmarshes, to minimize damage from sea-level rise and storm surge, in the Salish Sea region. Coastal vegetation can play an important role in strengthening coastlines against erosion (through roots binding soil), as well as elevating land and providing rough surfaces, thus attenuating waves and offering surge protection. The council’s adaptation framework will weigh up the options of avoid (nobuilt areas), protect (e.g. dikes and vegetation), accommodate (e.g. retrofitting structures) and retreat (gradual retreat of developments from frequently flooded areas).
In May 2016 the council released a Flood Construction Level Study that found in the event of a “designated storm”, 210 of the district’s 715 waterfront lots could expect substantial flooding, with a further 74 also at risk unless action is taken. The flood risk was calculated as a combination of tide, storm surge (0.65m) and 1 metre net sea level rise, at a probability of a 1/500-year event— although the report noted that a 1m sea level rise will likely occur before the year 2100. Tugce is working alongside climate change adaptation experts from government, environmental law, non-profits and the community to develop the District of North Saanich Resilience Planning Project. Her key role will be creating maps that show the impact of flooding on parts of the North Saanich coastline, and also developing scenarios of how different green adaptation actions can influence flooding outcomes.