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Special Issue "Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Mary J. Thornbush

Department of Geography, Brock University, 500 Glenridge Avenue, St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Interests: physical geography; geomorphology; environment; climate; landscape change; sustainability

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The role of physical geographers in ensuring the attainment of sustainability in a variety of Earth environments and systems at a multitude of scales is critical. This special issue calls on the expertise of physical geographers, including geomorphologists, climatologists, and so on, to consider the future of geosystems in a variety of settings and locations throughout the world. Accordingly, a diversity of landscapes are approached from an integrated systems point of view. A breadth of submissions is acceptable, including original research articles and reviews. The key aim is to contemplate sustainability from the perspective of physical geographers who focus on environmental problems and their solutions. Please contact the guest editor (Mary Thornbush: mthornbush@brocku.ca) for early feedback on your submission. The deadline for paper submissions is end March 2017, with abstracts (300 words maximum) and keywords (up to 10 words) provided for consideration. Please note that some papers may qualify for a waived Open Access publication fee, which is currently 1,400 CHF (Swiss Francs) for Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Dr. Mary J. Thornbush
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Physical Environments
  • Geosystems
  • Climate Change/Global Warming
  • Landscape Change/Environmental Change
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Environmental Resources
  • Human-Environment Interactions

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle The Contribution of Physical Geographers to Sustainability Research
Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1851; doi:10.3390/su9101851
Received: 2 July 2017 / Revised: 25 September 2017 / Accepted: 10 October 2017 / Published: 16 October 2017
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Abstract
A physical geographers’ scope of practice is not defined by any regulatory or academic organization, so perception of the potential contribution of physical geography to sustainability research has been nebulous or informal, at best. In order to understand what physical geographers can do
[...] Read more.
A physical geographers’ scope of practice is not defined by any regulatory or academic organization, so perception of the potential contribution of physical geography to sustainability research has been nebulous or informal, at best. In order to understand what physical geographers can do to enhance sustainability, this paper describes a systematic review of peer-reviewed research on sustainability published in three physical geography journals. The results show that physical geographers are active in sustainability research in terms of a spatial perspective, an understanding of human interactions with the environment, and an ability to recognize, interpret, and project environmental change and its impacts. The depth of this understanding is facilitated by a physical geographers’ understanding of the natural world, process and system concepts, the ways that systems are linked and interact, and a willingness to deploy a wide range of methodologies to secure that knowledge. The expertise of physical geographers makes an important contribution to sustainability research and should be considered when multidisciplinary teams are assembled. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Exploring Flood Resilience Thinking in the Retail Sector under Climate Change: A Case Study of an Estuarine Region of Taipei City
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1650; doi:10.3390/su9091650
Received: 29 June 2017 / Revised: 11 September 2017 / Accepted: 11 September 2017 / Published: 17 September 2017
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Abstract
With predictions of extreme precipitation and sea-level rise under climate change that may induce morphological changes of estuaries, increased estuarine flood risk needs to be considered. The aim of this case study was to contemplate sustainability from the perspective of flood resilience that
[...] Read more.
With predictions of extreme precipitation and sea-level rise under climate change that may induce morphological changes of estuaries, increased estuarine flood risk needs to be considered. The aim of this case study was to contemplate sustainability from the perspective of flood resilience that focuses on environmental problems and solutions. The study provided insights into retailers’ resilience thinking regarding the flood-prone Shetzu Peninsula in Taipei City. It is of concern that the retailers strategically identified potential flood risks and have developed adaptive knowledge, skills, and networks. The Location Quotient (LQ) analysis was conducted to verify that the retail sector of Shetzu Peninsula was considered a basic industry. Further assessments, an interactive visualization model and a consumption intensity map, were provided as supportive data. Based on the results, semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore 15 key retailers’ resilience thinking on how to adapt to floods in terms of risk communication under climate change. This approach is vital to meet the adaptation challenge in the Shetzu Peninsula. As a result, the study indicated that retailers have strategically identified potential weather-related risks and have implemented adaptation plans for each store functions. The study discussed that, in the face of climate change, maladaptation, interactive visualization models for communicating flood risks, and place attachment are key issues to increase flood resilience under climate change. The introduction of adaptation interventions in terms of urban resilience as a part of a comprehensive strategy helps to manage the impacts of climate change towards urban sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Climatic and Environmental Changes Affecting Communities in Atlantic Canada
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1293; doi:10.3390/su9081293
Received: 2 July 2017 / Revised: 17 July 2017 / Accepted: 18 July 2017 / Published: 25 July 2017
PDF Full-text (495 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Small rural coastal communities located in Atlantic Canada are vulnerable to the effects of climate and environmental changes. Major storms have impounded the coastline, causing much physical damage and affecting the socioeconomics of these communities that are composed of an aging population. The
[...] Read more.
Small rural coastal communities located in Atlantic Canada are vulnerable to the effects of climate and environmental changes. Major storms have impounded the coastline, causing much physical damage and affecting the socioeconomics of these communities that are composed of an aging population. The current study relays findings based on interviews completed in 2011–2012, following the 2010 winter storms in Atlantic Canada. It portrays the physical and social–ecological impacts affecting 10 coastal communities located in the provinces of Québec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Semi-structured interviews held in these provinces are the basis for the contributions of this research. The findings reveal physical changes related to coastal erosion from high-wave impacts and storm surge causing flooding of the coastal zone. Also considered are strategies preferred and actually implemented by residents, such as building of protection walls, although undesirable. Due to funding constraints, however, many of these large-scale flood protection projects are not possible without governmental support. Instead, it is suggested that development be controlled and some respondents in this study upheld that relocation be used to alleviate the situation. Finally, more work is required to improve emergency planning. Better concerted short- and long-term responses need to be coordinated by local authorities and higher up in the government in order to ensure the sustainability of these coastal communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Assessing the Role of Policies on Land-Use/Cover Change from 1965 to 2015 in the Mu Us Sandy Land, Northern China
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1164; doi:10.3390/su9071164
Received: 16 May 2017 / Revised: 20 June 2017 / Accepted: 21 June 2017 / Published: 3 July 2017
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Abstract
Policy has long been considered one of the major driving forces for land-use/cover change. However, research on the interactions between land-use/cover change (LUCC) and relevant policies remains limited. The agropastoral ecotone is a typical area of policy implementation and LUCC. Therefore, this study
[...] Read more.
Policy has long been considered one of the major driving forces for land-use/cover change. However, research on the interactions between land-use/cover change (LUCC) and relevant policies remains limited. The agropastoral ecotone is a typical area of policy implementation and LUCC. Therefore, this study integrates the use of multisource and multiresolution remote sensing and topographic and field-based datasets for the case of the Mu Us Sandy Land (MUSL) in northern China. The research aim was to quantify LUCC from 1965 to 2015 and describe the relationship between policy changes and land-use types during three stages: the stage of the Great Cultural Revolution, the stage of the modernization of the economy, and the stage of the Great Ecological Project. The results indicated that land use was affected by different national policies because of the national approach to land use during different periods. In the stage of the Great Cultural Revolution, the amount of cultivated land increased, and the environment deteriorated under the influence of leftists. In the stage of the modernization of the economy, vegetation coverage improved after the initial damage, and cultivated and artificial surfaces also increased. In the stage of the Great Ecological Project, cultivated land and unused land decreased, and woodland and sparse vegetation increased with the implementation of the Grain for Green Project (GGP). However, cultivated land increased but wood land and sparse vegetation decreased significantly by the end of the GGP. The coverage of artificial surfaces increased and grasslands decreased due to the encroachment of artificial surfaces into grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Decoupling Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution from Crop Production: A Case Study of Heilongjiang Land Reclamation Area, China
Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 1024; doi:10.3390/su9061024
Received: 22 April 2017 / Revised: 26 May 2017 / Accepted: 26 May 2017 / Published: 14 June 2017
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Abstract
Modern agriculture often leads to nonpoint source pollution. From the perspective of a decoupling analysis, this research evaluates the relationship between crop production and agricultural nonpoint source pollution (via fertilizer application), using the Heilongjiang land reclamation area as a case study. As it
[...] Read more.
Modern agriculture often leads to nonpoint source pollution. From the perspective of a decoupling analysis, this research evaluates the relationship between crop production and agricultural nonpoint source pollution (via fertilizer application), using the Heilongjiang land reclamation area as a case study. As it is the largest commodity grain base and green food base in China, more than 80% of water pollution in this area comes from fertilizer application. This study adopts an export coefficient model to hindcast nitrogen loss delivered to surface water via fertilizer application and conduct a further analysis of decoupling agricultural nonpoint source pollution from crop production. The results indicated that weak decoupling frequently occurred. However, this tendency was not steady in the period 2001–2012, and weak decoupling was typical in each branch based on the average value. Regarding the example of decoupling agricultural nonpoint source pollution from rice production, weak decoupling occurred more often, but this tendency was not steady over time. In addition, expansive coupling occurred in 2006, 2010 and 2012, and there were no definite signs of it improving. All branches, except for the Suihua branch, reached the degree of weak decoupling. A basic fact is that a decoupling tendency and environmental deterioration coexist in both the past and present. The decoupling analysis will contribute to localized strategies for sustainable agricultural development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Treelines—Approaches at Different Scales
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 808; doi:10.3390/su9050808
Received: 31 March 2017 / Revised: 22 April 2017 / Accepted: 27 April 2017 / Published: 12 May 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (4858 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Scales in treeline research depend on the objectives and must match the underlying natural processes. Factors and processes at one scale may not be as important at another scale. In the global view, the number of factors influencing climatic treeline position can be
[...] Read more.
Scales in treeline research depend on the objectives and must match the underlying natural processes. Factors and processes at one scale may not be as important at another scale. In the global view, the number of factors influencing climatic treeline position can be reduced to the effects of heat deficiency. Emphasis, however, should be laid on differentiation of the treeline by their regionally and locally varying physiognomy, diversity, spatial and temporal features, and heterogeneity. An assessment of the relative importance of the factors shaping regional/local treeline physiognomy, spatial patterns, and dynamics should have priority. This can be achieved only by syndisciplinary research. Such studies are indispensable for assessing treeline response to climate change at the regional and landscape scales. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Relationships between Soil Crust Development and Soil Properties in the Desert Region of North China
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 725; doi:10.3390/su9050725
Received: 2 March 2017 / Revised: 19 April 2017 / Accepted: 27 April 2017 / Published: 3 May 2017
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Abstract
This study investigated the effects of soil crust development on the underlying soil properties. The field sampling work was conducted in June 2016 in the Hobq Desert in Inner Mongolia, North China. Soil crust samples and 0–6, 6–12, 12–18, 18–24, and 24–30 cm
[...] Read more.
This study investigated the effects of soil crust development on the underlying soil properties. The field sampling work was conducted in June 2016 in the Hobq Desert in Inner Mongolia, North China. Soil crust samples and 0–6, 6–12, 12–18, 18–24, and 24–30 cm deep underlying soil samples were taken from five representative areas of different soil crust development stages. All samples were analyzed for physicochemical properties, including water content, bulk density, aggregate content, organic matter content, enzyme activities, and microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen. The results showed that the thickness, water content, macro-aggregate (>250 μm) content, organic matter content, microbial biomass, and enzyme activities of the soil crusts gradually increased along the soil crust development gradient, while the bulk density of the soil crusts decreased. Meanwhile, the physicochemical and biological properties of the soils below the algal and moss crusts were significantly ameliorated when compared with the physical crust. Moreover, the amelioration effects were significant in the upper horizons (approx. 0–12 cm deep) and diminished quickly in the deeper soil layers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Port Waste Management in the Baltic Sea Area: A Four Port Study on the Legal Requirements, Processes and Collaboration
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 699; doi:10.3390/su9050699
Received: 27 March 2017 / Revised: 25 April 2017 / Accepted: 26 April 2017 / Published: 28 April 2017
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Abstract
The cruise ship industry has become a well-implemented industry in the Baltic Sea area, and each year, the number of cruise ship passengers rises steadily. Efficient waste management in cruising ports around the Baltic Sea is a crucial element in minimizing environmental impacts.
[...] Read more.
The cruise ship industry has become a well-implemented industry in the Baltic Sea area, and each year, the number of cruise ship passengers rises steadily. Efficient waste management in cruising ports around the Baltic Sea is a crucial element in minimizing environmental impacts. This research involves the four selected ports of Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn. The study applies statistics and interview data to the analysis of waste management systems for cruise ship-generated waste. The interview data involves 12 executives and professionals responsible for environmental issues and decision making in their respective ports. The interviews highlighted the need for standardized environmental legislation and related procedures, which would result in coherent measurement systems. These systems would enable transparent environmental monitoring, thus maintaining the ports’ competitiveness. A common environmental legislation would support the emerging waste management system for the whole Baltic Sea area. The study suggests that ports should focus on handling specific types of wastes and collaborate as a spatial network. Specialization to allow the discharge of certain fractions of waste is essential. The paper concludes by addressing demands for future research, particularly vessel- and customer behavior-focused studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Spatial Expansion and Soil Organic Carbon Storage Changes of Croplands in the Sanjiang Plain, China
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 563; doi:10.3390/su9040563
Received: 23 January 2017 / Revised: 27 March 2017 / Accepted: 30 March 2017 / Published: 12 April 2017
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Abstract
Soil is the largest pool of terrestrial organic carbon in the biosphere and interacts strongly with the atmosphere, climate and land cover. Remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) were used to study the spatio-temporal dynamics of croplands and soil organic carbon
[...] Read more.
Soil is the largest pool of terrestrial organic carbon in the biosphere and interacts strongly with the atmosphere, climate and land cover. Remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) were used to study the spatio-temporal dynamics of croplands and soil organic carbon density (SOCD) in the Sanjiang Plain, to estimate soil organic carbon (SOC) storage. Results show that croplands increased with 10,600.68 km2 from 1992 to 2012 in the Sanjiang Plain. Area of 13,959.43 km2 of dry farmlands were converted into paddy fields. Cropland SOC storage is estimated to be 1.29 ± 0.27 Pg C (1 Pg = 103 Tg = 1015 g) in 2012. Although the mean value of SOCD for croplands decreased from 1992 to 2012, the SOC storage of croplands in the top 1 m in the Sanjiang Plain increased by 70 Tg C (1220 to 1290). This is attributed to the area increases of cropland. The SOCD of paddy fields was higher and decreased more slowly than that of dry farmlands from 1992 to 2012. Conversion between dry farmlands and paddy fields and the agricultural reclamation from natural land-use types significantly affect the spatio-temporal patterns of cropland SOCD in the Sanjiang Plain. Regions with higher and lower SOCD values move northeast and westward, respectively, which is almost consistent with the movement direction of centroids for paddy fields and dry farmlands in the study area. Therefore, these results were verified. SOC storages in dry farmlands decreased by 17.5 Tg·year−1 from 1992 to 2012, whilst paddy fields increased by 21.0 Tg·C·year−1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle The Dynamic Change of Vegetation Cover and Associated Driving Forces in Nanxiong Basin, China
Sustainability 2017, 9(3), 443; doi:10.3390/su9030443
Received: 1 December 2016 / Revised: 10 March 2017 / Accepted: 13 March 2017 / Published: 17 March 2017
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Abstract
Natural climate change and human activities are the main driving forces associated with vegetation coverage change. Nanxiong Basin is a key ecosystem-service area at the national level with a dense population and highly representative of red-bed basins, which are considered as fragile ecological
[...] Read more.
Natural climate change and human activities are the main driving forces associated with vegetation coverage change. Nanxiong Basin is a key ecosystem-service area at the national level with a dense population and highly representative of red-bed basins, which are considered as fragile ecological units in humid regions. In this study, the authors aimed to determine the trends in vegetation cover change over past two decades and the associated driving forces in this study area. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of 2000–2015, derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) remote sensing dataset along with the application of statistical methods and GIS (geographic information system) techniques were used to quantify vegetation cover change. The results show that human-induced factors can explain most variations at sites with significant cover change. That is to say that human activities are the main drivers of vegetation dynamics in this study area, which shows a significant reduction trend in vegetation cover during the industrialization and urbanization processes of the study period and noticeable recovery trend in 2000–2015 under the plantation and enclosed forest policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Mapping and Monitoring the Akagera Wetland in Rwanda
Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 174; doi:10.3390/su9020174
Received: 13 September 2016 / Revised: 16 January 2017 / Accepted: 19 January 2017 / Published: 25 January 2017
PDF Full-text (7711 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Wetland maps are a prerequisite for wetland development planning, protection, and restoration. The present study aimed at mapping and monitoring Rwanda’s Akagera Complex Wetland by means of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS). Landsat data, spanning from 1987 to 2015, were acquired
[...] Read more.
Wetland maps are a prerequisite for wetland development planning, protection, and restoration. The present study aimed at mapping and monitoring Rwanda’s Akagera Complex Wetland by means of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS). Landsat data, spanning from 1987 to 2015, were acquired from different sensor instruments, considering a 5-year interval during the dry season and the shuttle radar topographic mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (30-m resolution) was used to delineate the wetland. The mapping and delineation results showed that the wetland narrowly extends along the Rwanda-Tanzania border from north to south, following the course of Akagera River and the total area can be estimated at 100,229.76 ha. After waterbodies that occupy 30% of the wetland’s surface area, hippo grass and Cyperus papyrus are also predominant, representing 29.8% and 29%, respectively. Floodplain and swamp forest have also been inventoried in smaller proportions. While the wetland extent has apparently remained stable, the inhabiting waterbodies have been subject to enormous instability due to invasive species. Lakes, such as Mihindi, Ihema, Hago and Kivumba have been shrinking in extent, while Lake Rwanyakizinga has experienced a certain degree of expansion. This study represents a consistent decision support tool for Akagera wetland management in Rwanda. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Other

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Open AccessCase Report Lifting the Information Barriers to Address Sustainability Challenges with Data from Physical Geography and Earth Observation
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 858; doi:10.3390/su9050858
Received: 30 March 2017 / Revised: 1 May 2017 / Accepted: 5 May 2017 / Published: 19 May 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (4111 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability challenges demand solutions, and the pace of technological and scientific advances in physical geography and Earth observation have great potential to provide the information needed to address these challenges. This paper highlights five online tools and initiatives that are lifting barriers to
[...] Read more.
Sustainability challenges demand solutions, and the pace of technological and scientific advances in physical geography and Earth observation have great potential to provide the information needed to address these challenges. This paper highlights five online tools and initiatives that are lifting barriers to address these challenges. The enviroGRIDS project in the Black Sea catchment demonstrates how the use of spatial data infrastructures can facilitate data sharing. Google Earth Engine is providing solutions to challenges of processing big data into usable information. Additionally, application programming interfaces allow outsiders to elaborate and iterate on programs to explore novel uses of data and models, as seen in the Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine. Finally, collaborative mapping tools, such as Seasketch/MarineMap and the InVEST software suite, allow engagement within and between groups of experts and stakeholders for the development, deployment, and long-term impact of a project. Merging these different experiences can set a new standard for online information tools supporting sustainable development from evidence brought by physical geography combined with socioeconomic conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Climatic and Environmental Changes affecting Communities in Atlantic Canada
Authors: Liette Vasseur 1, Mary Thornbush 2,* and Steve Plante 3
1 Brock University, Department of Biological Sciences, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada;
2 2Brock University, Department of Geography, Avenue1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada;
3 Département de développement régional et territorial, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300, Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec, Canada, G5L 3A1, Canada; ; Correspondence: ; Tel.: +1-905-688-5550
Abstract: Small rural coastal communities located in Atlantic Canada are vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate and stemming environmental changes. Major storms have impounded the coastline, causing much physical damage and affecting the socioeconomics of these aging communities. The current study relays findings based on interviews completed in 2011–2012 following the 2010 winter storms in Atlantic Canada. It portrays the physical and social-ecological impacts affecting 10 coastal communities located in the provinces of Québec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Semi-structured interviews (75) held in these provinces are the basis for the contributions of this research. The findings reveal physical changes related to coastal erosion from e.g., higher wave impact and storm surge as well as flooding at the coast. Also considered are strategies preferred and actually implemented by residents. Due to funding constraints, large-scale flood protection projects are not possible without government support. Instead, it is suggested that development be controlled and some respondents upheld that relocation be used to alleviate the situation. Finally, more work is required to improve emergency planning. Better concerted short- and long-term responses need to be coordinated by local authorities and higher up in the government.
Keywords: climate change; physical landscapes; impacts; responses; adaptation; sustainability

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