Ris­ing sea lev­els im­pact Cape Bre­ton

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

Cape Bre­ton is an is­land. No big news there. How­ever, be­cause we are an is­land, we are threat­ened by cli­mate change in very spe­cific and wor­ri­some ways. Sea lev­els are on the rise, a re­sult of cli­mate change and the re­sult­ing Arc­tic ice melt.

The ocean has been re­shap­ing our shore­line for gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion, and for mil­len­nia be­fore that, so why should we care? Well, nowa­days, coastal ero­sion threat­ens our com­mu­ni­ties, our homes and our way of life.

Can you re­mem­ber when there was a sand bar be­tween Glace Bay and Port Cal­en­do­nia? Ris­ing sea lev­els change the shape of, or re­claims en­tirely, our beaches, salt marshes and other coastal fea­tures. It in­creases ero­sion prob­lems by chip­ping away at cause­ways, break­wa­ters and sea walls. It even has the po­ten­tial of bring­ing salt­wa­ter in­land, where it doesn’t be­long, pos­si­bly con­tam­i­nat­ing wa­ter sup­plies. While this is not a se­vere prob­lem in many re­gions to­day, there are sig­nif­i­cant ex­am­ples of coastal ero­sion along our shores.

Strong and rocky cliffs are slid­ing into the sea, tak­ing with them homes and barns, en­croach­ing on our com­mu­ni­ties in a way we prob­a­bly should have pre­dicted. Re­searchers have stated that the At­lantic re­gion is the long­est coast­line in Canada that is highly sen­si­tive to sea level rise. Re­duc­tion in sea ice has in­creased coastal ero­sion and has made flood­ing more com­mon. Cli­mate change has re­sulted in more fre­quent and more se­vere weather events which fur­ther weaken our shores.

OK, so what can we do about it? Well there are two sig­nif­i­cant ac­tiv­i­ties un­der­way in two dif­fer­ent parts of Cape Bre­ton Is­land that ad­dress high lev­els of sen­si­tiv­ity to sea level rise, their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and threats of cli­mate change.

One is a five-year study by Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa pro­fes­sor Dan Lane who is in­clud­ing Isle Madame in an in­ter­na­tional study called C-Change: Manag­ing Adap­ta­tion to En­vi­ron­men­tal Change. This study in­cludes three other sites in Canada plus sites in the Caribbean. The study in­tent is to con­sult with lo­cal peo­ple and to dis­cuss what might hap­pen as cli­mate change im­pacts are felt more strongly, such as those re­sult­ing from re­cent storm surges.

A sec­ond study is un­der­way in the Glace Bay Area, in­sti­gated by the Cana­dian In­sti­tute of Plan­ners, NRCan, the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and sup­ported by ACAP Cape Bre­ton. Th­ese groups are host­ing a Cli­mate Change Work­shop to be held at the Glace Bay High School Li­brary next week — one ses­sion Tues­day evening, March 2 at 7 p.m., and an­other ses­sion Wed­nes­day morn­ing from 9:30 a.m. un­til noon. Sea level rise and ero­sion are un­avoid­able prob­lems in our coastal com­mu­ni­ties. Whether you look on Up­per North Street in Table­head, or swim at the beach in Port Morien, the ef­fects of cli­mate change are ob­vi­ous and quickly pro­gress­ing.

Ask for the real philo­den­dron to stand up and you might be sur­prised at one plant that does not rise: the split-leaf philo­den­dron, some­times called Swiss cheese plant.

Split-leaf philo­den­dron is a philo­den­dron look-alike, with smooth, glossy leaves and brown roots dan­gling from the stems like thick cords. Like a real philo­den­dron, it also has a hardy dis­po­si­tion, tol­er­at­ing low light, dry air and ne­glect­ful wa­ter­ing as well as any other good house­plant.

Pretty much the only re­sponse a split-leaf philo­den­dron will have to abuse will be new leaves that are un­der­sized and lack the deep cuts and holes that un­der ideal con­di­tions give them the name Swiss cheese plant. Full leaves make split-leaf philo­den­drons look even more like most real philo­den­drons.

But make no mis­take: Split-leaf philo­den­dron is not a philo­den­dron at all. Its botan­i­cal name, rather than Philo­den­dron, is Mon­stera — not in a fright­en­ing sense but in the sense that the leaves can grow very large, even a me­tre across.

Mon­stera, al­though dif­fer­ent from philo­den­dron, is ad­mit­tedly a close rel­a­tive, shar­ing the same fam­ily as philo­den­dron, along with Jack-in-the-pul­pit and calla lily.

What unites th­ese plants in a com­mon fam­ily is their unique flow­ers. In­di­vid­ual flow­ers are them­selves ho-hum; they are strik­ing in the way they are packed tightly along an upright, fleshy spike, the whole spike ris­ing just above one or two broad, brightly coloured bracts. A bract is a mod­i­fied leaf at the base of a flower, and is of­ten more showy than the flower it­self — the red bracts of poin­set­tias are an­other ex­am­ple.

Fruits that fol­low such flow­ers make split-leaf philo­den­dron even more in­ter­est­ing, and give rise to the sec­ond part of its botan­i­cal name: de­li­ciosa.

This fruit is oc­ca­sion­ally seen in mar­kets, es­pe­cially those spe­cial­iz­ing in trop­i­cal del­i­ca­cies, some­times un­der the name ce­r­i­man. As the fruit de­vel­ops, the spike be­gins to look like a long pine cone cov­ered with small, hexag­o­nal plates of green rind cov­er­ing in­di­vid­ual ed­i­ble ker­nels. You wouldn’t want to taste the fruit be­fore it is ripe, be­cause the high ox­alic acid con­cen­tra­tion at this stage can cause a burn­ing sen­sa­tion in your throat.

The fruit sig­nals its ripen­ing by turn­ing a lighter colour, al­most yel­low, and by shed­ding bits of its rind. All the ker­nels do not ripen at once, but the fruit can be clipped from the plant when ripen­ing be­gins, then wrapped in plas­tic and held at room tem­per­a­ture to fin­ish ripen­ing com­pletely without fall­ing apart.

Bite into the in­di­vid­ual, pale, juicy ker­nels, and what you would taste would be a com­bi­na­tion of pineap­ple and ba­nana, with a slight hint of ap­ple.

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