Marine impacts of inland tar sands development

The expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is the most controversial natural resource development project in contemporary Canada. In the absence of relevant data, public rhetoric and political decision-making bodies in Canada have centred around values-based discourse. I served as one of two marine ecologists on a multidisciplinary project commissioned by the City of Vancouver to thoroughly assess the potential impacts of the project at the land-sea interface near Vancouver. I then collaborated with city planners to advance this work into a framework that other cities across the world could use when planning for coastal impacts of potential oil spills, and surveyed all publicly available literature to highlight knowledge gaps prohibiting Canada from making informed decisions (i.e., research priorities) about this pipeline expansion. 

Example publications:

Palen, W, T Sisk, SJ Green, & KW Demes. 2018. Ottawa’s call for new science review says a lot about Trans Mountain safety claims. The Narwhal Opinion. [link]​

Green, S, KW Demes, M Arbeider*, WJ Palen, AK Salomon, TD Sisk, M Webster*, ME Ryan. 2016. Oil sands and the marine environment: Current knowledge and future challenges. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 15(2): 74-83. [link]

Chang, S, J Stone, K Demes, M Piscitelli. 2014. Consequences of oil spills: a framework for scenario planning. Ecology and Society 19(2): 26. [link]


Stone, J, M Piscitelli, K Demes, S Chang, M Quayle, D Withers. 2013. Economic and biophysical impacts of oil tanker spills relevant to Vancouver, Canada: a literature review. Prepared for Vancouver Economic Commission 153 pp. [link]

Ferry wakes in the Gulf Islands

In areas with minimal water flow, increased flow stimulates productivity and biodiversity by mixing up nutrients and removing metabolic wastes. However, at some point, the 'mixing' benefit is maximized and further increases in flow carry mechanical forces large enough to dislodge species. Most studies on human alterations of hydrodynamic regimes have focused on mechanisms resulting from decreased flow (e.g. estuary re-routing, damming), which almost always adversely impacts marine communities. Anthropogenic increases in flow, however, can occur from boat wakes and as a consequence of climate change. Counter-intuitively, wakes from ferry and boat traffic in areas of otherwise low flow may stimulate productivity and diversity of intertidal seaweeds. This result seems limited only to rocky reef environments (where resuspension of sediments by wakes is minimal).

Example publications:

Demes, KW, RL Kordas & JP Jorve. 2012. Intertidal sites exposed to ferry traffic exhibit higher seaweed abundance and diversity. Hydrobiologia 693: 1-11. [link]