Hakai Institute - Coastal Sand Ecosystems

The north-west coast of Calvert Island comprises a series of small, recessed pocket beaches separated by rocky headlands with varying exposure to the forces of the Pacific ocean. Although this is not a unique configuration along the rugged shoreline of British Columbia, the number, range in sizes, and variations in aspect to wave energy on the semi-isolated beaches of northwestern Calvert Island provide unusual opportunities to compare and contrast these bio-physical systems in a semi-controlled experimental fashion. Of particular interest is investigating the degree to which these beaches can be considered closed eco-morphodynamic systems with minimal inter-connectivity in the alongshore direction. Are they conditioned predominantly by marine process or do terrestrial processes and interactions that deliver sand, nutrients, fresh water, and biotic opportunity to the foreshore limit dominate? This project is intended to interface with others that will explore the provenance of sand, the development of soils on stabilized relict dunes, and the character of marine ecology in the nearshore environment.

The large number of semi-isolated pocket beaches of varying size and oceanic exposure on Calvert Island provides an unusual opportunity to examine the degree to which these coastal eco-morphodynamic systems are isolated or inter-connected in regard to a range of controlling conditions and stimuli that originate from terrestrial and marine sources. The beach-dune interface provides the accommodation space for the evolution of unique ecological dynamics that may depend on very specific marine-terrestrial interactions that depend on geographical location on Calvert Island or, alternatively, become regionally homogenized via exchange mechanisms that are mediated by alongshore and nearshore connections.

The project will interface with other CSE initiatives by providing fundamental data on the morphodynamic states of the beaches (e.g., wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity, wave height, wave period, currents, turbidity, sediment exchanges/budgets, geomorphic and bathymetric changes) as well as the biodiversity and ecological dynamics (e.g., plant communities, soil development, interstitial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, mites, nutrient pathways and cycling, etc.). Instrumentation nodes will be established for long-term monitoring of system parameters with the intent of testing a range of hypotheses about the association (or lack thereof) between beach morphodynamic state and ecosystem diversity as viewed through the theoretical lens of 'disturbance regimes'.