Climate change

Prince Edward Island National Park

There is an increased awareness of the impact of climate and adaptation for climate change in Prince Edward Island National Park.  

Climate change will accelerate coastal processes in an already fragile ecosystem. Changes in the freeze thaw pattern, the number of degree-growing days and changes in the water table are all factors that could potentially impact ecosystems. New forest pests, range expansion, species introductions even changes in season duration may be cause for concern and/or changes in management practices. 

A number of current measures that may indicate climate change and/or impact ecological integrity in PEI National Park:

  • First plant bloom in forest and wetland ecosystems
  • Coastal erosion
  • Nearshore ice
  • Water level
  • Water temperature

As an example, nearshore ice measures the number of days there is an ice foot present on the beach. An ice foot is the pile of ice chunks which stack up on the beach in a continuous line.  The presence of the ice foot is very important to the dunes as it protects them from storm driven wind and waves. It also protects the invertebrates living in the sand, as the temperature beneath the foot remains relatively stable unaffected by the thawing and freezing typical of winter. A change in climate patterns for our region, for instance, could affect the length of time these protective ice foots are present along our beaches during the winter months.


Climate change and coastal erosion, PEI National Park


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[Catherine McKenna and Brad Romaniuk on the beach next to sand dunes in PEI National Park]

[Catherine McKenna] So I’m here with Brad Romaniuk, he’s a resource conservation manager at PEI National Park. So we’re in a really amazing spot, tell me what we’re looking at.

[Brad Romaniuk] So Catherine we’re looking at our coastal ecosystem of the national park. That dune structure that basically lines the ocean for the duration of park and it’s an important ecosystem in the fact that it’s very narrow and it’s very dynamic, constantly changing.

The waves and wind actually change this environment constantly.

[Catherine McKenna] So what are we doing to protect and maintain the dunes?

[Brad Romaniuk] So from the ecological integrity perspective, we monitor all of the ecosystems in our national parks across Canada, and this ecosystem itself we monitor erosion rates. The national park is based on a sandstone formation and so it constantly changes.

[Catherine McKenna] So what about climate change? Are you worried about the impacts of climate change? More storms, coastal erosion… [Brad Romaniuk] Yes, I think climate change for us is something we really want to work with our partners with and understand better. As it relates to this specific environment, there’s probably three processes that take place that we would like to learn more about and try to understand. One of them would be the frequency of storms and the severity. Some of these sand dunes are quite fragile if they’re compromised, so they can move and change rapidly. Secondly is the formation of an ice foot, there’s an ice foot that forms on this line every fall. As climate change changes, that ice foot is forming later and that’s a protective barrier to these dunes in the winter time from ice that comes off the ocean and it’s protected from scouring and changing this landscape in a very rapid fashion. The third one is actually just a long sort of understanding of how people use the environment and the interest of getting on the dunes and learning about them and how that changes people’s understanding.

[Catherine McKenna] Well it’s really amazing because I know Canadians love our national parks and my big thing is how do we get Canadians to learn more about our national parks and how each park is unique and represents a different ecosystem, how they can connect with the parks and then of course how they can protect them. So it’s great, thank you for all the work you’re doing.

[Brad Romaniuk] Thank you!

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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2017.

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