Rising sea levels impact Cape Breton
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.