Cumulative Effects Monitoring Initiative (CEMI)

Over the last 150 years, the cumulative effects of environmental stressors on Burrard Inlet have impaired its health and reduced the opportunity for Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) to utilize the waters and beaches to harvest food and practice aspects of TWN culture. As urban, industrial, and Port development around Burrard Inlet continues, this has the potential to put further stress on the ecosystem and many of the natural resources important to TWN. Consequently, improved monitoring and assessment of cumulative effects from historic and future development is a high priority for TWN. Currently, however, no government or agency is equipped to accurately and holistically assess the cumulative environmental impacts of developments and stressors within the inlet. Therefore, TWN is actively leading and developing a Cumulative Effects Monitoring Initiative (CEMI) to inform complex management decisions in Burrard Inlet based on Tsleil-Waututh knowledge, priorities and field science programs.

CEMI is led and managed by TWN with support from numerous collaborators and stakeholders. The program is also committed to making environmental data available as open data and usable for widespread application, such as project-related impact assessments. In addition, TWN has engaged the Government of Canada to recognize the assessment tools produced by CEMI as the Regional Assessment under the proposed new Federal Impact Assessment Act.

To properly inform environmental management, CEMI will develop a holistic monitoring program that will be used to establish current baseline conditions, monitor and assess trends over time, predict future development and climate change effects, and identify and prioritize opportunities for environmental protection, restoration and enhancement. Moreover, TWN is analyzing the archaeological record and historical climate proxies to recreate the ecosystem and food-web that existed before European settlers reached Burrard Inlet and track the arc of environmental changes. This aspect of CEMI will be developed from archaeological analyses led by Dr. Jesse Morin. Development and implementation of CEMI is a long-term project and will include a number of steps before it can inform management objectives and strategies.

CEMI is now developing an analytical framework, such as an ecosystem model, to inform policy and evaluate impacts from proposed developments and identify restoration opportunities. This framework will be the fundamental link between the field data collected and management, and will be used to develop and enforce management objectives and strategies. TWN is determining the most appropriate analytical framework to address CEMI’s specific objectives, and is evaluating how well ecosystem models can assess cumulative effects.

TWN has determined the following overarching objectives to guide model development:

  • Objective 1: Establish a pre-contact baseline food web and track the arc of change to the current environmental state of Burrard Inlet.
  • Objective 2: Inform ecosystem restoration and enhancement initiatives and progress that will allow TWN members to obtain a minimum of 10% of protein requirements from Burrard Inlet by 2040.
  • Objective 3: Inform impact assessments and management decision-making to ensure all future approved development projects in Burrard Inlet will result in net ecological gain.

To address the project objectives and questions, we require a spatiotemporal food web model that will produce spatially specific information regarding historic, current and future changes to the food web and ecosystem in Burrard Inlet. The model will need to consider trophic connections, biological and physical processes, and environmental conditions that drive and limit productivity, and is to be developed based on the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modeling framework. It is intended to link the model to a hydrodynamic model, and to consider the impact of chemical and microbial contamination data, habitat data and other sub-lethal effects.

It is the intention to develop an EwE model for Burrard Inlet, taking advantage of extensive data collection as well as historical information for the Inlet. The work will be done by one or two PhD students that will be based at IOF at UBC, but spend a considerable part of the time with project partners at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Kerr Wood Leidal. The PhD student(s) will be focused on constructing the EwE model from field and historical data collected by TWN, and the work will in support of and in close cooperation with TWN’s CEMI.

Project coordination and leadership