Study shows P.E.I. erosion for 2014 higher than previous years

Maureen Coulter
Published on January 30, 2016

Lighthouse manager Bev Stewart kneels to the power of a vigorous wind while trying to demonstrate how close the cliff edge is getting to the Wood Islands lighthouse that was moved further inland only seven years ago.

©THE GUARDIAN/Steve Sharratt

UPEI's Climate Research Lab says Island lost an average of 46 cm of coastline, up from 28 in the past

Prince Edward Island is crumbling away at a faster rate than expected.

A graduate student at the University of Prince Edward Island, Andy MacDonald, went around the province to 70 different coastal sites over the summer, measuring and gathering data for the the university's Climate Research Lab.

The findings showed the Island lost an average of 46 centimetres of coastline in 2014, which is a hike from the average 28 cm in losses recorded in previous years.

"It was significantly higher than what we expected," said MacDonald.

Another finding showed that nine of the sites saw no change, while five had losses of more than two metres.

The five sites with the highest recorded erosion were Panmure Island, Wood Islands Lighthouse, Naufrage Lighthouse, Seaview and Governor's Island.

In the past, the provincial government measured erosion loss with aerial photos taken every 10 years. Based on this process, the average amount of coastal erosion was 28 centimetres a year.

Adam Fenech's research team of associates and graduate students measured coastal erosion with marker pins in the ground to provide new annual data.

MacDonald said they have added approximately 30 more new sites, which will give a more complete picture of the erosion loss of the Island.

"We don't have the entire Island covered," said MacDonald. "We are going to improve it as it moves forward by adding more sites. The more data we get, the more accurate the total will be."

While gathering data, MacDonald had a chance to speak to people who live near the shoreline who were interested in this project.

"Every place I visited, I would have a local come and talk to me because they are so interested in the topic. They want to know what to expect in terms of losses from year to year."

MacDonald said a lot of people told him they were measuring coastal erosion themselves for their own information. The amateur observations seemed to be consistent with the climate lab's findings.

"If you have property close to the shore, and you are not prepared for the changes, it can be a lot to deal with."

Previous studies by the Climate Research Lab showed vulnerabilities not just to coastal homes and cottages, but roadways and some of P.E.I.'s iconic lighthouses.

The best method of defence is shoreline armouring, but it carries an expensive price tag and there is still land loss even with that in place.

MacDonald said this study provides some good information and awareness for Islanders with properties close to the shoreline.

"The more information that homeowners can have the better," said MacDonald. "If you are considering buying property close to the shore, I think just a little bit of research is wise."