British Columbia

Stanley Park ecosystems and seawall at risk from rising sea levels

Stanley Park is widely considered a gem of Vancouver's geography but the beloved seawall and surrounding wildlife are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, according to a local sustainability specialist.

Birds, harbour seals and sea life will be affected as water temperatures and levels rise around the park

The Vancouver seawall was covered by waves during a 2013 storm. Angela Danyluk, a sustainability specialist with the City of Vancouver, says rising sea levels due to climate change could engulf parts of the seawall by the year 2100.

Stanley Park is widely considered a gem of Vancouver's geography but the beloved seawall and surrounding wildlife are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, according to a local sustainability specialist.

Angela Danyluk says coastal residents can expect to see one metre of sea level rise by the year 2100, which would have serious effects on the ecosystem of Vancouver's shoreline.

"That will cause the low tide mark to come up and shrink that habitat, that intertidal zone that is the nursery, home, and kitchen for many plants and animals," she told The Early Edition's Claudia Goodine.

"If there's less food in the kitchen then we're going to have a lot of hungry beaks to feed. Those birds will have to find food elsewhere if they can."

Senior sustainability specialist with the City of Vancouver, Angela Danyluk, stands by Second Beach in Stanley Park. She says water levels will rise by one metre by the year 2100, which would engulf the park's beaches and reach the top of seawall barriers. (Claudia Goodine/CBC)

Danyluk says the intertidal zone is a habitat for mussels, clams, snails, and young fish which draws larger marine mammals and birds to the area to feed.

With climate change, she says the water temperature and acidity will also be elevated and affect these ecosystems.

"We see shifts in populations of birds, fish, of marine mammals like harbour seals or even the southern resident killer whale … We can expect changes in where these species feed and rest, so we might not see them as much as we do now, in the future," Danyluk said.

Seawall damage and closures

When the sea level rises, Danyluk said it's likely the seawall will face more damage than usual from storms and high tide events like king tide, which happens every year between November and January.

"When you have all that extra water, when it pounds the side of the seawall it has a lot of energy behind it … In the future, we're  going to have a lot more damages to the seawall and possibly closures."

The city adopted an adaptation strategy in 2012, with sea level rise as top priority and is considering solutions such as raising some parts of the seawall and backing other parts away from the current shoreline to allow for more beach areas, according to Danyluk.

She said she's interested in hearing input from the public and from experts on innovative and creative solutions on how to preserve the Stanley Park seawall.

The city has asked people to document the annual tidal event for the past several years which acts as a visual record of the area's highest water levels.​

Danyluk said the photos will give the public an idea of what the shoreline may look like in the years 2050 to 2100.

Experts from the City of Vancouver will discuss how climate change could impact wildlife and the way people use the park at the Stanley Park Ecology Society's annual general meeting Monday night from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the West End Community Centre.

With files from The Early Edition, Claudia Goodine

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

Stanley Park is widely considered a gem of Vancouver's geography but the beloved seawall is at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, according to a local sustainability specialist. 3:28

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