“Ecosystem-based Adaptation” (EbA) – influence land use & infrastructure practices in urban watersheds

Note to Reader:

In the late 1990s water resource practitioners in British Columbia, who learned from Washington State research, embraced an “ecosystem-based approach” to integrated stormwater management planning. Although this interdisciplinary way-of-thinking underpinned Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released by the Province in 2002, use of the ecosystem term failed to take root in the drainage practitioner culture.

Two decades later, however, research undertaken at Simon Fraser University creates a window of opportunity to connect the present to the past, and build on historical knowledge and understanding to educate and inspire a new generation of practitioners to “think like a watershed”and implement ecosystem-based solutions.

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Think and Act like a Watershed: Harness Nature to Adapt to a Changing Climate (1st in a series connecting past and present research)

Historical Context

In 1996, Richard Horner and Chris May (University of Washington) published their seminal research that correlated land use, cumulative impacts and stream health. Their findings shook conventional stormwater management wisdom in the Pacific Northwest to its foundation. Their work became part of the curriculum for cross-border sharing via a workshop series conducted by Bill Derry and Kim Stephens for local governments.

The workshops generated interest in the ecosystem-based approach and led to the SmartStorm Forums, four transformational events held between January 1999 and March 2001. Organized by a partnership comprised of federal, provincial and local governments, the SmartStorm Forums advanced an ecosystem-based approach to stormwater management. A notable outcome was Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia.

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Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)

Fast-forward to May 2016. At a meeting of the Metro Vancouver Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (SILG), a forum for local government representatives, Julia Berry presented the findings from her Master’s thesis. A graduate of the School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Julia Berry applied original thinking to apply core concepts and produce:

Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change in Urban Areas: An Evaluation of Rainwater Management Practices in Metro Vancouver

The core concept of the research project, EbA, is a combination of two other significant concepts: EBM (ecosystem-based management) and climate change adaptation. The value of the work by Julia Berry is two-fold: picks up threads from the 1990s; and reminds practitioners to focus on outcomes not output – What does the community want? What is the goal? How will actions restore hydrologic integrity?

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change in Urban Areas: An Evaluation of Rainwater Management Practices in Metro Vancouver, the project by Julia Berry.

Application of an Evaluation Framework

“Adapting to climate change will require a combination of approaches, from man-made infrastructure to holistic approaches. British Columbia’s Stormwater Planning Guidebook promotes a holistic approach to rainwater management, which views rain as a resource and aims to mimic the natural hydrological cycle by allowing rainwater to return directly to the ecosystem,” notes Julia Berry.

Julia Berry_SFU student_120p“Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is a novel approach to planning and adaptation that prioritizes ecosystem services, enhancing biodiversity, as well as human health and wellbeing. My research uses a framework of EbA principles to evaluate select watershed plans from the cities of Surrey and Coquitlam in the Metro Vancouver region.”

“While the intended purpose of Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs) is not directly to address climate change, the results of my research show that these two municipalities are already successfully implementing the principles of EbA through ISMPs in the urban context,” concludes Julia Berry.

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