Unravelling How Climate Change and Human Populations Are Affecting Coastal Waters
About 40 per cent of humans live within 100 kilometres of a coastline, and this percentage is likely to increase rapidly in the coming decades. Humans have long been attracted to water for economic and cultural reasons, but living near coastlines also exposes people to marine hazards. Increased coastal population densities and industrial activities can also lead to water shortages and coastal pollution.
Coastal contamination occurs in two directions: land-based contaminants can be transported to the sea through coastal rivers and aquifers, and saltwater can migrate landward (and contaminate freshwater) when sea levels rise and flooding occurs. Canada boasts the world’s longest coastline (200,000 kilometres), but we have done relatively little research on the impacts of climate change on coastal aquifers, estuaries and communities.
As Canada Research Chair in Coastal Water Resources, Dr. Barret Kurylyk combines field investigations with state-of-the-art computer modelling of coastal water bodies. His goal is to better understand how changing conditions in the sea and on land affect coastal waters where the two meet. He and his research team are studying field sites from the Canadian Arctic to the Maritimes. They hope their “outdoor laboratories” will yield new insights into coastal hydrologic processes and vulnerabilities.
Kurylyk believes that effective science-based management can improve the sustainability and resilience of coastal waters and communities. His research will lead to innovative solutions for the societal challenge needed to ensure the future security of coastal waters as our urbanizing world continues to migrate to coastal megacities.