Ecological Life Support

Broom Crowberry (Corema conradii) Pistillate flowers by Green Optics Photography
Why we need to preserve this biodiverse coastal headland

This article has since been republished with permission in the January edition of the Eastern Shore Cooperator.

Biodiversity (a contraction of “biological diversity”) comprises all life on Earth. Greater species diversity supports healthier ecosystems and even improved human health.

“We are in the midst of both climate and biological diversity (extinction) emergencies, wherein we are at or beyond planetary thresholds for being able to recover. Such intact ecosystems as Owls Head are our ecological life-support systems. We need them in order to survive as a species, as do the other species with which we share this land, many of which are endangered1.”

Dr. Karen Beazley
Continue reading “Ecological Life Support”

“Back at Owls Head”

Photo courtesy of CPAWS NS

Statement from Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Nova Scotia Chapter

This summer, CPAWS-NS has visited Owls Head numerous times. Accompanied by a range of biodiversity experts, we have been completing a series of surveys to record the rich natural diversity of this coastal headland. 

Our team has identified over 75 species of birds that occur here, undertaking surveys from the land and on the water. Later this month, we’ll be out again with our snorkels, studying eelgrass beds in the area. 

Continue reading ““Back at Owls Head””

The Marine Side: By Kristina Boerder

Marine biologist Dr. Kristina Boerder explains that Eastern Shore marine ecosystems and salt marshes are providing “important ecosystem services” that benefit humans and nature.

  • Protection from coastal erosion
  • Providing important habitat for a multitude of species
  • Benefiting local fisheries
  • Acting as important carbon sinks (absorbing & storing carbon dioxide)
  • Providing breeding and nursery habitat for terrestrial, near-shore, and migratory birds
  • Providing “shelter, foraging, and breeding habitat for marine invertebrates, such as shrimp and crabs, and small fish”

I’m a marine biologist working with Dalhousie University and have been doing a little research on the coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems around Owls Head Provincial Park, which might potentially be impacted by any large-scale development on the land. The best data comes from DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] for the proposal for the Eastern Shore marine protected area as well as from some research going on at Dal.

While I don’t have detailed site-specific data (yet), coastal habitats in the wider area include highly vulnerable salt marshes and marine habitats such as eelgrass beds, kelp forests, and rockweed habitats. All of these habitats are very important – salt marshes are essential breeding and nursery habitats for terrestrial, near-shore, and migratory birds. Salt marshes and marine habitats both “provide shelter, foraging and breeding habitat for marine invertebrates, such as shrimp and crabs, and small fish” (DFO Biophysical and Ecological Overview of the Eastern Shore Islands Area of Interest (CSAS SAR – 2019/016). Rockweed, kelp, and eelgrass are important as feeding, hiding, and breeding grounds for many different species such as commercially valuable lobster and many fish species such as herring.

In contrast to other areas around Nova Scotia, these ecosystems are still doing pretty well along most parts of the Eastern Shore (one of the reasons why the marine protected area proposal is so important). They’re providing what is called “important ecosystem services” (services ultimately benefitting humans) such as protection from coastal erosion, providing habitat for a multitude of species (including benefits for local fisheries), and being important carbon sinks (salt marshes are essential breeding and nursery habitat for terrestrial, near-shore and migratory birds and, same as the marine habitats, “provide shelter, foraging and breeding habitat for marine invertebrates, such as shrimp and crabs, and small fish).

However, they are all globally threatened, mainly by coastal developments. For a large development such as golf courses, the construction and subsequent run-off from the land as well as increased nutrient loads all have the potential to negatively impact these ecosystems.

“Thus, as increasing human pressures on coastal ecosystems threaten the continued supply of essential functions and services, the protection of marine vegetated habitats should be a management priority.” (Schmidt et al 2011)

Dr. Kristina Boerder
Postdoctoral researcher,
Dept. of Biology, Dalhousie University


BIOPHYSICAL AND ECOLOGICAL OVERVIEW OF THE EASTERN SHORE ISLANDS AREA OF INTEREST (AOI) “Both international and domestic targets (Aichi Target 11 and Canada’s Target 1) call for the conservation of 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.”

Ecosystem structure and services in eelgrass and rockweed habitats

Updates & Related Reading:

Eelgrass Exploration at Owls Head Provincial Park

Meet the super-plant from Nova Scotia’s shorelines: eelgrass

Marine Ecosystems Q&A with Dr. Kristina Boerder

CBC Radio: Interview with marine expert Dr. Boris Worm

Now vs Then

Every property that made it onto the list of Parks and Protected Areas Plan had a reason to be there. Each had a history. Owl’s Head Provincial Park was property #694 until an arrogant, duplicitous Minister and Cabinet removed it. Now the government is trying to erase Owls Head from the public record. The initial CBC article by Michael Gorman, published on December 18, points to a backroom deal fabricated by lobbyists and political dinosaurs who think that anything is for sale. A secret deal, a Letter of Offer to sell 661 acres of public coastal land to a private developer. At this time, two Ministers have made misleading public statements in attempts to cover the smell of a deal that would not stand the light of public scrutiny or professional review.

Pristine coastal barrens, rare plants, endangered species, water frontage on 5 coves and a lake, sand beaches, ideal coves and inlets for coastal kayaking, did I mention publicly owned? Continue reading “Now vs Then”