Climate Change Increases Damage Risk

The risks to coastal archaeological sites from a changing climate are well understood. Projected sea level rise, increased storminess and higher storm surges will result in more coastal flooding and erosion and reduced effectiveness of coastal defense structures. Consequently, major changes to Newfoundland and Labrador’s coastline as a result of climate change will impact significantly on the archaeological record. As all sites cannot be protected, it is essential that heritage managers know which sites and landscapes are most at risk.

Site Cape Onion East (top right) at the base of steep sided cove with eroding race (bottom left).

Site Cape Onion East (top right) at the base of steep sided cove with eroding face indicated by the red arrow (bottom left).

For example, a pilot assessment in selected parts of Newfoundland revealed that 20% of archaeological sites are threatened by increased coastal erosion and flooding as sea level rises and storm surge activity increases over the next 15–50 years. Threatened sites include internationally important sites at L’Anse aux Meadows and Port au Choix that are adjacent to the modern coast and situated on low-lying topography.

High (red), moderate (yellow) and low (green) vulnerability classification of archaeological sites (crosses) in Bonavista Bay from the pilot assessment by Kieran Westley and colleagues (Westley et al. 2011).

High (red), moderate (yellow) and low (green) vulnerability classification of archaeological sites (crosses) in Bonavista Bay from the pilot assessment by Kieran Westley and colleagues (Westley et al. 2011).

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