Another nice lab output this week in Marine Policy led by Qiqi Zhao, a China Scholarship Council visiting PhD student in my lab last year, including a bunch of other lab-affiliated students as co-authors: Modelling cultural ecosystem services in agricultural dykelands and tidal wetlands to inform coastal infrastructure decisions: a social media data approach. It is a bit of a companion piece to the Chen et al (2020) piece in Ocean and Coastal Management, as it uses the same Instagram dataset collected for every dykeland area in Nova Scotia back in 2018, but in a very different way. Chen et al. took a very qualitative ‘small data’ approach to the dataset, analyzing the photographs (and accounts) only of posts that included the words dyke*/dike*/wetland/marsh in the captions. Zhao et al. used a ‘big data’ text mining approach, extracting and associating bi-grams (two-word strings) from geolocated post captions to particular cultural ecosystem services (CES), modelling those CES using SolVES and comparing (as with Chen et al.) dykeland and wetland services. Whereas Chen et al. only found direct mentions of freshwater marshes (specifically Miner’s Marsh), in Zhao et al. we leveraged the coordinates to locate those geolocated to tidal wetland sites. This will help us better understand the tradeoffs associated with climate change-driven adaptations of the dykeland system in the Bay of Fundy, the focus of NSERC ResNet Landscape 1.
Back in 2020 I submitted a proposal for a panel for the ResNet L1 team at the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership (BOFEP) meeting to be held in Truro. We finally had a chance to deliver that panel last week, after two years of delays due to COVID. BOFEP was held in partnership with ACCESS (Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society) , which led to a very diverse set of presentations from isotope analysis to citizen science and beyond. Our panel was originally designed to present the Facets paper as it was in development; instead we showed how ResNet L1 was filling in the gaps in the conceptual model we presented in the Facets paper on services like cultural, storm protection, carbon, and pollination, and how that related to practice.Being in Truro also enabled a great meeting with ResNet partners, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, visited lovely Victoria Park for a walk, and enjoyed a great public forum on flooding in Truro and the region.
That last item was the standout event for me. Truro Planning Director and a local African Nova Scotian resident demonstrated the political and justice dimensions of flood planning decisions in the region. Coincidentally or not, that theme was taken up yesterday on CBC Information Morning by Lynn Jones, who seems to be a part-time neighbour of that resident. The resident is now surrounded by homes that their owners could afford to raise on pads to the 1988 requirements currently in force for development on the flood plain, and he (downhill) feels he is receiving their runoff, worsening his situation. He can’t get insurance, but can’t really afford to raise or leave. He thinks the river should be dredged to store more water but the CBCL modelling suggests the sedimentation is so high it simply wouldn’t work. Meanwhile, Jones says her community, before they left or were squeezed out, used to ‘work with nature’ by keeping boats in the backyard so they could navigate the street, a pretty extreme form of what in adaptation terms would be called ‘accommodation’. She wants to see her community come back to these ‘ancestral lands’, but the risks today are higher than they were then. The past is a poor predictor of the future. This additional dimension to the challenges of Truro’s complex flood situation echoes those in other places like New Orleans where minorities are relegated to marginal lands, build strong communities and then are first displaced when conditions change: adaptation would mean not helping people to stay or return to such increasingly at-risk places, but such decisions have uneven impacts. Today, however, it sounds like flood plain development is still being permitted by Truro’s pro-development council and provincial UARB, in full awareness of expanding flood risk areas, locking in more risk and complexity for residents, the town and the wider public purse that will eventually have to wade in and make it right.
CBC’s Moira Donovan has written an article for the National Observer about the new report on the future protection of the Chignecto Isthmus. When it came out there was some consternation in the TransCoastal Adaptations team that nature-based solutions like dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration weren’t built into the solution. There is at least 15 years of local research on the value of such approaches, and a great time series of dyke realignments to learn more from, but consulting engineers clearly aren’t leveraging it yet. The report options seem designed instead to prioritize agricultural land values and thus ‘hold the line’ with higher and stronger walls. Not even the NS Department of Agriculture that manages the dyke system on this side of the Bay has the ethos that all current dykelands can be maintained in the face of climate change. NSERC ResNet is looking to understand the tradeoffs involved in these and other dykeland decisions, including complex dynamics such as carbon tradeoffs, salt water intrusion, and cultural implications across a range of constituencies.
As in October, I have been too busy to blog this month but plenty has been happening. Gillian Kerr started working for ResNet L1 part time as a research associate to help with data stewardship and knowledge exchange. ResNet HQP Emily Wells and partner CMM’s Kara Pictou did a pilot interview for their shared work on Traditional Knowledge and climate change and the interviews are coming next. We had the first committee meeting for Keahna Margeson’s OGEN IDPhD about coastal adaptation, which includes an interdisciplinary team across SRES, Information Management, Planning, Kings, and the National Research Council. I made it up to see the Truro Onslow dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration project (the one covered in this OECD report and this paper) during the last set of ‘high’ high tides, after the dyke was finally breached. The above photo was taken then, around 4:30 pm, and the bird life in the flooded former dykeland was cacophonous! A good sign for the biodiversity benefits of this ambitious project as well as the climate resilience benefits.
Former postdoc, HM Tuihedur Rahman, who led the paper linked above about the Truro case study, also led another recent paper in Climate Risk Management that features among the three other authors two of my lab alumni, former postdoc Wesley Tourangeau and PhD alum Bernard Soubry. Great to see such synthesis work emerging from trainees working directly together: A framework for using autonomous adaptation as a leverage point in sustainable climate adaptation.
Finally, I had fun participating in the book launch for the recent volume co-edited by Susana Batel and David Rudolph, A critical approach to the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructures, published this year by Palgrave McMillin and available free online. Frequent collaborator John Parkins and I wrote a chapter in that volume with MES alum Ellen Chappell about the value of quantitative methods in critical social acceptance work on energy. The event was fascinating, and to my surprise the critical perspective of some presenters about renewable energy was in tension with the fast transition discourse coming from COP26.
The first output of the Landscape 1 case study of ResNet, the Bay of Fundy dykelands, is out this week in Facets, Canada’s open access science journal: Understanding multifunctional Bay of Fundy dykelands and tidal wetlands using ecosystem services—a baseline. We set out to understand ecosystem service flows from tidal wetlands and drained agricultural dykeland (former tidal wetland), as climate change forces a rethink of the dykeland system. This review covered papers, theses, reports, and drew in some cases on other jurisdictions where there was a dearth of local data. We uncovered some key gaps but also potential synergies in balancing the system for sustainability. Filling some of the gaps to inform decisionmaking is the undertaking that faces us in ResNet.