Dalhousie marine biologist calls sensitive eel grass at Owls Head ‘treasure’

Kristina Boerder says development would likely cause negative consequences on surrounding aquatic vegetation and marine life

Kristina Boerder completed work in the area last summer and says the rare eel grass beds at Owls Head are more effective at trapping carbon than forests on land. She says about one acre of eel grass can store about 330 kilograms of carbon per year. 

“This is about as much as a car travelling from Halifax to Vancouver would emit in carbon,” she says. “The function of eel grass beds trapping carbon is incredibly important if we talk about climate change and a warming planet.”

She says it also benefits humans and the environment by protecting the coast from erosion and improving water quality.

“It’s one of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” she says. “A square metre produces about 10 litres of oxygen per day, and really benefits everybody.”

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Species Spotlight: Piping Plover

Piping Plover (Charadrius Melodus Melodus) 

The piping plover is a beloved – but critically endangered – shorebird. The Nature Conservancy of Canada reports that there are fewer than 40 breeding pairs of piping plovers in our province. The piping plover population in Nova Scotia has suffered an alarming decline of more than 25% since 2001, largely due to anthropogenic (human-caused) disturbances.

“Piping Plovers depend on dynamic, healthy coastal ecosystems. Key challenges to the recovery of this small shorebird include habitat loss from coastal development, disturbances from recreation and motorized vehicles, predator pressures, and climate change.”

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Avian Diversity at Owls Head Provincial Park

A photo gallery of bird species recorded through e-bird

As a 268-hectare coastal landscape on the Atlantic Flyway, Owls Head Provincial Park is an important habitat for native bird species and a refuge for migratory birds.

The coastal headland supports a variety of habitats, including a beach, estuaries, bogs, and salt marshes. Last summer, CPAWS NS and a team of biodiversity experts set out “to identify bird species across these habitats and document the ecological significance of this unique region.”

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Species Spotlight: Broom Crowberry

“Vegetation on the bedrock ridges of Owls Head [Provincial Park] is dominated by a shrub called Broom Crowberry (Corema Conradii),” explain biologists Caitlin Porter and Dr. Jeremey Lundholm. Broom Crowberry (Corema c­onradii) is a flowering heathland plant that is “endemic to eastern North America, meaning it can be found nowhere else in the world.” (Porter and Lundholm).

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Seagrass—secret weapon in the fight against global heating

One of the most threatened yet overlooked ecosystems on Earth, seagrass could have a promising future thanks to its ability to absorb carbon.

Seagrass accounts for 10 per cent of the ocean’s capacity to store carbon—so-called “blue carbon”—despite occupying only 0.2 per cent of the sea floor, and it can capture carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.

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