UBC Undergraduate Research

Modelling the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Suitable Dunlin Habitat in the Fraser River Delta Chapman, Melanie; Cheng, Jingyi; Mancer, Jonathan; Hernandez, Rennier


The Fraser River Estuary Important Bird Area is located in the Fraser River Delta region of southwestern British Columbia and encompasses Boundary Bay, Sturgeon Bank and Roberts Bank. This area is a highly productive stopover site for migratory shorebirds, and maintains hundreds of thousands of shorebirds each year, such as Dunlin ( Calidris alpina ), Western Sandpiper ( Calidris mauri ), and Black-bellied Plover ( Pluvialis squatarola ). For this reason, it is currently designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. The estuary’s ability to support high volumes of shorebirds is being put at increasing risk due to rising sea levels and climate change. Our study explored the effects sea level rise has on suitable Dunlin habitat through a combination of field site visits, an extensive literature review, and through the analysis of existing spatial Geographic Information Systems data. Using this information, we constructed spatial models to evaluate the distribution of suitable coastal and inland Dunlin shorebird habitat under different sea level rise scenarios. The results show that Dunlin inland habitat area decreased up to 20.12% and coastal Dunlin habitat area decreased up to 15.51%. Boundary Bay and Sturgeon Bank appear to suffer the largest amount of habitat loss, which could put the local Dunlin population under increased stress. Furthermore, we analyzed the impacts of current sea level rise adaptation strategies on the Dunlin and provided recommendations for bird-friendly adaptation strategies. The results of this model were linked to existing Pacific Flyway conservation strategies to provide recommendations for future management strategies related to the conservation of the Fraser River Delta’s ecosystem integrity and shorebird ecology.

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