Cape Breton's First Nations communities are reviewing a climate change study that identifies the parts of Bras d'Or Lake coastline most vulnerable to flooding and erosion.

The first phase of the study, called "Impacts of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise on the Mi'kmaq Communities of the Bras d'Or Lakes," found eastern sections of the lake's coastline will be most affected by climate change.

The highest erosion rate of the study, done by the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, was observed in along the eastern shore of Chapel Island. Malagawatch and Eskasoni are also looking at increased shoreline erosion.

Water levels on the lake are expected to rise 90 centimetres by the year 2100.  

"Chapel Island and Malikewe'j will be the most impacted by rising sea levels. Specifically, the low lying areas of Chapel Island on the south side of the island in vicinity of many cabin locations will be experiencing storm-surge flooding several times per year by year 2030,"  the report says.

Real Daigle, environmental consultant on the project, says the bigger problem areas are on those shores affected by northeasterly and easterly wind directions and prone to higher wave action. That will intensify the erosion problems, he said.

Chapel Island

A partially submerged strip of land along the coastline of Bras d'Or Lake. A new study shows the effect of climate change on the lake. (Joan Weeks/ CBC)

LIDAR mapping technology was used to illustrate the anticipated changes, he said. 

"By using Lidar, we can reproduce a storm surge event and see, well, here's how that storm will look like 20 years
from now or 30 years from now so it kind of immediately raises awareness. People recognize that there is a risk there and they need to seriously start to think about some adaptation.

 Daigle says many of the study's findings can be applied to any properties along Bras d'Or Lake, not just those in First Nations communities.
 
The next stage of the study will create models of the worst-case scenarios. The study was undertaken to help the communities plan for future land use, meet infrastructure needs and protect culturally and historically significant areas.