This research, funded by my 2012 SSHRC Insight Development Grant on farm wetlands,  explored public perceptions of Acadian dykelands in the face of climate change. Dykelands were originally agricultural, built by Acadian settlers in the 1600s, but now protect industrial, transportation and residential infrastructure as well as farmland. Climate change (specifically sea level rise and storm surges) will require them to be raised and strengthened to be sustained, but doing so for all of them will be impractical, given the budget of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, which has the responsibility. Restoring some dykelands to coastal wetlands may be more adaptive. The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA) provided funding to support research into public perceptions of managed dyke realignment to balance coastal wetland restoration and land protection.

We used Q-methodology, statement sorting, to explore how a range of citizens and stakeholders (including farmers) perceived the costs and benefits of dykelands and coastal wetlands, as well as various governance arrangements and adaptive practices such as managed realignment. A pilot study was undertaken in the summer of 2014 in the Cornwallis River (Annapolis Valley) to test statements with 20 stakeholders, in parallel with researching opportunities and challenges for managed realignment in the region. That ‘concourse’ of statements was then revised for a provincial online Q-method survey (n=183) in early 2015. Factor analysis revealed four discrete discourses related to the management of Nova Scotia dykes and dykelands, and an understanding of what personal variables predict an adaptive (rather than mitigative) perspective (Sherren et al., 2016). The factor data is publicly available on data visualization site Tableau.

Collaboration is underway to seek parallels with the drained agricultural land in the Po Delta, Italy, based on research in the lab of Davide Viaggi, University of Bologna.

Research output

Targetti, S., Sherren, K., Raggi, M. and Viaggi, D. 2016. Contrasting perceptions of anthropogenic coastal agricultural landscape meanings and management in Italy and Canada. 19 April, 2016, Interdisciplinary Approaches in Climatic Change Research and Assessment session, European Geographical Union General Assembly, Vienna, AU.

Sherren, K., Loik, L and Debner, J.. 2016. Climate adaptation in ‘new world’ cultural agricultural landscapes: the case of Bay of Fundy dykelands (Nova Scotia, Canada). Land Use Policy, 51, 267-280.

Research trainee

Logan Loik, MREM 2014, undertook the Q-method pilot research in the Annapolis Valley/Cornwallis River, co-funded by SSHRC and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to explore opportunities for managed realignment. He went from Dalhousie to being an energy efficiency Field Ambassador for the Summerhill Group.