Defining Coastal Zones

Defining Coastal Zones
The definition of “coastal zone” is an issue that has been debated by resource
specialists, lawyers, bureaucrats, industry representatives, and community groups. The
consensus appears to be that the definition of coastal zone should be a functional one.
In other words, the definition used depends on the nature of the issue being addressed.
For example, in matters relating to the fishery, the term “coastal zone” may refer to an
area extending to or beyond Canada’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In the
case of issues related to aquaculture, a much narrower definition may suffice.
Broadly speaking, the limits of the coastal zone can, depending on the
situation, extend from the inland limit of coastal watersheds to the seaward edge of the
EEZ. Coastal zones, then, can extend a long way inland. A terrestrial component is
included to show that activities taking place within a coastal watershed can directly
affect the marine environment through run-off into river systems.
The coastal region is constantly changing due to waves, currents, tides, and
rising sea levels. Changes are influenced by local conditions. The coastal zone is
commonly considered to be composed of three subsystems, each with
its own characteristics, resources, and set of problems: marine, coast, and terrestrial.
Marine Subsystems
The marine subsystem consists of the oceanic component of a coastal zone. In short,
it is the part that is under salt water.
Resources and Uses
• Describes water depth, salinity,
and temperature.
• Wave and tide regimes.
• Water currents and sediment
• Describes seabed composition.
• Diversity of marine habitat
• Exploitation of fisheries.
• Exploitation of oil and gas.
• Exploitation for tourism and
• Use for navigation.
• Use for waste discharges.
• Disturbance and destruction of
habitat by fishing, mining,
anchoring, dredging, and
• Depletion of exploitable plant/
animal stocks.
• Oil spills (both disastrous
shipwrecks and routine leakage).
• Spatial conflicts (tourism,
fishery, navigation, etc.).
• Deterioration of water quality
due to waste discharges.
Coast Subsystem
The coast subsystem is the relatively narrow and dynamic transitional zone between
the marine and terrestrial subsystems. It includes the littoral zone (between low- and
high-tide marks) and the supralittoral or saltwater spray zone.
Resources and Uses
• Type of coastal profile (sandy
beach, pebble beach, rocky
shore, etc.).
• Tidal regime and storm surge
susceptibility (shoreline
• Wind and wave regime.
• Coastal habitat types (rocky,
mud flat, etc.).
• Sand and gravel extraction
from shoreline.
• Exploitation for tourism and
• Exploitation of forest
• Use for human settlement.
• Use for land reclamation
(e.g., dike construction to
reclaim salt-marsh habitat for
• Use for port development
and related industrial
• Use for aquaculture.
• Disturbance and destruction of
coastal habitat by mining, logging,
settlement, and infrastructural
• Degradation and loss of
shoreline due to accelerated
• Spatial conflicts.
• Deterioration of coastal water
Terrestrial Subsystem
The terrestrial subsystem of the coastal zone consists of land where human or other
activity can affect the marine environment.
Resources and Uses
• Topography.
• Soil types.
• Aquifer structure and
groundwater resources.
• Surface water resources.
• Terrestrial habitats present
(e.g., forest, barren, wetland).
• Use of terrestrial resources
(logging, mining, etc.).
• Use of freshwater resources
(domestic, industrial,
irrigation, hydro, and
• Agriculture and aquaculture.
• Human settlement patterns.
• Land reclamation.
• Industry.
• Infrastructure facilities
(power plants, water
treatment plants, etc.).
• Destruction of terrestrial
• Transport of terrestrially
generated effluents to the marine
• Increased susceptibility to
• Reduction of freshwater
availability and quality.
Exploring Nova Scotia’s Coastline
1. Either individually or in pairs, choose a portion of the Nova Scotia coastline. For
• Northumberland Shore - New Brunswick border to St. George’s Bay
• Cheticamp Beach area of Cape Breton Island
• Meat Cove, Cape Breton Island
• Eastern shore from the Strait of Canso to Halifax
• South shore from Halifax to Shelburne
• Shelburne to Yarmouth
• Fundy shore from Yarmouth to Digby
• Digby to Cape Split
• Minas Basin
• Kingsburg Beach
• Risser’s Beach
• Medford Beach
• Lawrencetown Beach
• Clam Beach
• Arisaig Beach
 If you have another coastal area in mind check with me for approval…
2. Word Document: Each group will make a chart or data table and describe the:
- specific characteristics
- resources and uses
- challenges
of their coastal zone, for all three coastal zone subsystems (terrestrial, coast,
3. You must include pictures.