Carters Beach in the Region of Queens Municipality contains the highest dunes on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast. While the beach is a popular destination due to its white sand and blue waters, the dunes have many important functions. The dunes protect inland development and act as a defence against climate impacts for example flooding and strong winds during storms. The dunes are also a significant habitat for biodiversity and several species at-risk including the Piping Plover, short-eared owl, and scaly jellyskin lichen.
Several studies have assessed the vulnerability of Carters Beach to climate change and human activity. The Municipality of Queens’ 2014 Municipal Climate Change Action Plan investigated increasing annual temperatures, annual precipitation, frequency and intensity of storms, and sea level rise under historical trends and for 2020, 2050, and 2080 projections. Trends and projections were based on a climate ensemble of 20 models including Canadian models CGCM3T47 and CGCM3T63. Based on these predictions, storm surges, flooding, erosion, drought, forest fires, and hurricanes were identified as important hazards with certain regions having increased vulnerability. Carters Beach was found to be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal hazards particularly erosion. While Carters Beach is vulnerable to future climate change impacts, the dune system has been historically adaptive. A 2011 study by the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables revealed some of the dunes have been adapting to environmental change since the 1920s. However, a 2017 assessment noted that recently the dunes have experienced increased blowouts and loss of vegetation from 2010-2017. The risks that climate change pose to Carters Beach combined with increased human activity could be detrimental to Carters Beach’s ability to adapt to climate change.