Shoreline Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise in British Columbia

Kirsten Feifel
Posted on: 12/28/2009 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Kirsten Feifel

Project Summary

To help survey and assess the vulnerability of British Columbia lands to climate change, the BC Ministry of Environment has used GIS technology to create sensitivity maps of the Province. These projects have been conducted in collaboration with students at the Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC under the mentorship of BC Ministry of Environment staff.


Sensitive coastal ecosystems will be identified through GIS analysis in order to inform park planners and managers so that their actions today make sense in tomorrow’s world. Results from this project should help prioritize and guide planners and managers when planning for structures, economic opportunities, and ecosystem shifts in protected areas along the coast.

GIS sensitivity maps will be created using multiple layers of data including:

  • Shore zone mapping (e.g., substrate type and exposure)
  • United Nations Environment Programme-predicted sea level rise rates
  • Topographical information (e.g., shoreline aspect and slope)
  • Habitat types in uplands adjacent to shore
  • BC Park boundaries

Different layers of data will be combined to build a model to evaluate sensitivity to sea level rise. Sensitivity maps will be created for three pilot shorelines - protected sandy, estuarine, and open coast - to see if results from the GIS program are logical and reasonable. Once the model is refined, it will be run for the entire coast of the province, generating maps of sensitivity to sea level rise. The North and Central coasts have been identified as priorities for the BC Ministry of Environment because they recently acquired a large tract of parkland in this region and planners must consider the effects of climate change when developing management plans.


A key resource for these projects was the collaboration with students at a local university in an advanced GIS course. Each student is required to do an advanced-level practicum as a final project. The staff at the Ministry of Environment help to develop the project and then serve as mentors to the students. Extension of these projects are often limited by financial constraints.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Results of the GIS analysis will be consolidated into a final report with park-specific recommendations and made available to regional planners. The BC Ministry of Environment expects to incorporate results into management plans as soon as possible.


Feifel, K. (2009). Shoreline Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise in British Columbia [Case study on a project of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2009)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

The BC Ministry of Environment is tasked to foster and enhance a clean, healthy and naturally diverse environment. In 2009, the Environmental Stewardship and Parks and Protected Areas Divisions of the BC Ministry of Environment distributed Common Statements of Understanding and Working Principles related to climate change adaptation. These principles should be taken into consideration in all future projects and planning. The Ministry recognizes that it must prepare for and adapt to the unavoidable impacts rising greenhouse gas concentrations will cause throughout the Province.

Related Resources