Understanding the Shore Zone Using an Integrated Management Approach

Banner Photo Credit and Description: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; Seaspan shipping cargo through the Burrard Inlet

The shore zone is a dynamic region. Physical forces, such as tides, waves, ocean currents, and storm actions, produce responses, such as littoral drift and erosion, which impact shore zone features, habitats, and species distribution and survival. This continual shift and interaction of physical and biological processes needs to be appropriately interpreted by humans as a natural process. Once the shore zone’s dynamic nature is understood and accommodated for in human processes, coastal development and restoration activities will better complement the physical and biological processes, and enjoy increased durability, longevity, and integration in the shore zone.

To be effective over the long-term, shore zone project developers are encouraged to adopt an integrated management approach that aligns project activities with ecological processes of the habitat under consideration (Fig. 2). This entails understanding the interaction between biological, physical, and human processes of the area where development is to occur.   

Cumulative impacts of coastal development on backshore hydrological and landscape processes also need to be acknowledged and, when possible, integrated into shore zone project design and management in order to maintain watershed and marine ecosystem functioning. This involves assessing projects using an ecological perspective as opposed to a project by project basis, understanding the relationship between offshore, backshore, and upland regions, and predicting impacts that extend beyond project boundaries. An ecological perspective incorporates the spatial and temporal scales of biological, physical and human processes, and acknowledges that the shore zone is a dynamic continuum of connected habitats as opposed to static, independent segments.

Figure 2

Figure 2