Preserving Vancouver’s Intertidal Zone

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We worked to produce a body of data that begins the task of identifying the diversity and abundance of intertidal organisms across Vancouver’s shorelines. Using what we learned at the Kitsilano Beach and Girl in a Wetsuit study sites, we hope to inform stakeholders about what is at risk of being lost due to shifting climate baselines in coastal environments.

School:

UBC

Department:

(Faculty of Science) Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences

Course:

Environmental Capstone - Community Project in Environmental Science (ENVR 400)

Instructors:

  • Tara Ivanochko
  • Michael Lipsen

City of Vancouver:

  • Angela Danyluk

Student Team:

  • Clare Price
  • Chad Campbell
  • Meagan Mak
  • Irina Roche

Strategy:

  • Climate Change Adaptation Strategy; Biodiversity Strategy

Term:

Spring 2023

Summary

Currently, there is a lack of understanding and historical data on Vancouver’s intertidal ecosystems. We created a body of data identifying species diversity and abundance at two self-selected study sites, Kitsilano Beach and Girl in a Wetsuit. This body of data will inform stakeholders about what is at risk of being lost to shifting climate baselines in coastal environments. Increased frequency of heat domes and cold snaps will jeopardize the lives of ecologically important organisms in an already vulnerable ecosystem, permanently changing the shoreline. Such losses could change both the diversity and abundance of species composition, with long-term implications for the function of these ecosystems and the benefits they provide to Vancouverites and their communities.

We found a large abundance and biodiversity of species at both study sites; each has characteristics that set it apart as a unique and valuable ecosystem. Our results revealed the presence of several of the species essential to Vancouver’s intertidal habitats. These included keystone species such as ochre sea stars, ecosystem engineers like Pacific blue mussels, and foundation species such as macroalgae. Important organisms such as these were found at both study sites, with unique distributions according to site characteristics.

In laying the groundwork for conducting surveys of Vancouver’s intertidal ecosystems, we hope future students or city working groups can expand on our project. We hope this extension provides recommendations that will preserve and restore the resilience of intertidal ecosystems amidst the threats they face. We also hope that communicating this reality to city officials will invigorate action toward protecting intertidal areas and developing standardized coastal management strategies.

 

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