Natural Dynamics Restoration and Coastal Ecosystem Enhancement in the Cap-des-Rosiers Area

The area located between Cap-des-Rosiers and the tip of Cape Gaspé in Forillon National Park is a unique environment. It is located along the park’s eastern coastline, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Forillon Peninsula is particularly vulnerable to climate change and coastal erosion, and recurring damage to the park’s infrastructure has been documented over the past decades. As a result, several studies have been conducted on the subject, and the knowledge acquired in these studies has been used to guide park managers in selecting restoration options to be prioritized. The overall approach adopted in the project uses adaptive management, with decision-making based on solid scientific evidence that takes into account the environment’s specific characteristics, natural dynamics, and forecasts of changes in these processes over time. The purpose of the project was to restore the natural dynamics of the coastal/marine ecosystem in the Cap-des-Rosiers area and to protect and enhance the associated natural and cultural resources. The project also generated additional knowledge about the history of local communities, as well as providing an opportunity to redevelop the commemorative burial site for the victims of the Carricks shipwreck, to give their descendants a place to gather and remember them.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Forillon Peninsula’s location and condition makes it particularly vulnerable to climate change  hazards and coastal erosion. This problem has been known for many years. At the start of the 20th century, residents built a road along the upper beach in the Cap-des-Rosiers area. In 1926, the coastal road was officially constructed between the lighthouse and the Cap-des-Rosiers harbour, directly on the active part of the upper beach. Soon, the new road needed to be protected by stone-filled timber cribs and, over time, additional protective structures, such as a wooden wall and a stone embankment, were built to protect the route from inclement weather. More recently, riprap was installed along an approximately two-kilometre stretch in 1980 and a concrete wall was built in the 1990s. Coastal erosion and damage to the road and associated infrastructure have been particularly severe since the mid-1990s, with the protective structures no longer adequate. In 2011, part of the road had to be relocated due to a large breach in the riprap and damage to a 15,000-V volt electrical cable. The road relocation project was carried out over seven years, from 2015 to 2021.

Identifying Actions

The preferred approach has involved implementing adaptive management principles and integrating the knowledge gained as the project progressed. The project has also benefited from the experience and knowledge acquired in the Conservation and Restoration (CoRe) Program in the Penouille area of the park, as well as long-standing observations by the park’s resource conservation team and the data collected by one of our partners, the Laboratoire de dynamique et de gestion intégrée des zones côtières at the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQÀR). Despite this, specific knowledge about the site and its coastal dynamics was still needed and additional studies were required to evaluate the various development options.


The restoration and adaptation scenarios considered took into account the area’s natural dynamics, the predicted changes in coastal conditions due to climate change, and the management objectives for this area of the park.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Overall, the Cap-des-Rosiers natural dynamics restoration and coastal ecosystem enhancement project has been a great success. The objectives established for the project were met and, in a number of cases, exceeded. Infrastructure that interacted with coastal dynamics (e.g. riprap and road) has been removed, the beach has been restored, and visitor infrastructure (e.g. trail, lookout and raised walkway) has been added. As a result, visitors can now appreciate and immerse themselves more in the natural environment surrounding them. Similarly, removing the road and riprap has allowed the free movement of waves and sediments on the beach. As a result, the beach is accessible not only to visitors, but also to other living organisms such as capelin, which use it as a spawning  habitat. The ongoing natural revegetation process is progressing at a satisfactory rate, adding to the work done on the north side of the beach.

In terms of cultural resources, relocating the Irish Memorial, a heritage symbol commemorating the victims of the Carricks shipwreck, has ensured its protection. The restoration of the natural beach profiles (i.e. previously altered by human infrastructure) will help reduce the risk to any cultural resources that remain buried on the shore. Finally, as the statistics collected show, this project has been a unique opportunity to raise awareness of Forillon National Park’s value and the issues affecting it, and to obtain Canadians’ support and engagement.

Next Steps

Since coastal ecosystems are very dynamic by nature, it will take some time for the ecosystem to completely recover its natural functioning. In this context, it is important to implement long-term monitoring to assess the effectiveness of the actions taken in the project. Indeed, ecosystems and their processes are known to recover gradually after a disturbance, particularly if the changes have been substantial and have occurred over a long period of time. Long-term monitoring will also help improve the success rate of future restoration projects, due to the lessons learned about what actions worked compared to those that did not.