Restoring tidal wetlands and their ecosystem services in Truro, Nova Scotia

Tidal wetlands form the first line of defense during severe storm events; however, the development of Nova Scotia’s coastlines has led to the loss of nearly 85% of tidal wetlands. A large portion of the wetland habitat loss can be attributed to hardened coastal protection measures (such as dikes, berms and shore armouring), which are already beginning to fail with current storm surges and sea-level rise. Truro, Nova Scotia is a town of 12,000 people, located on the floodplain of the Salmon River that flows into the Bay of Fundy, and is part of a large network of dikes along the Salmon River. To ensure the long-term protection of the community and to maintain the coastal ecosystem, a Joint Flood Advisory Committee was formed, with representatives from the County of Colchester, Town of Truro, Millbrook First Nation and provincial government departments and the public. The committee commissioned a comprehensive flood risk study of Truro that recommended several options for reducing flood risk. Of the options provided, no single solution was found to be effective and no measure under CAD$100 million was found to protect more than 20% of the priority areas. This led to the stakeholders’ decision to opt for managed retreat, allowing for the shortening and realignment of the dyke and restoration of the tidal wetland. It is estimated that within three years post-breach, the restored North Onslow tidal wetland will be operating as a near optimum salt marsh habitat and regulating (e.g. acting as a storm buffer) ecosystem services.

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