Climate Change Adaptation in Cheticamp
Cheticamp and surrounding communities will be the site of a two-year project to study how climate change will impact the fisheries and tourism sectors in Western Cape Breton, and develop new tools to help the community prepare for change. The Ecology Action Centre received funding for this project through Canada’s Rural Secretariat program under its Knowledge Development Fund. The project will support local research, focus group discussions, community forums, student projects and other learning opportunities in Cheticamp and surrounding communities. The project will hire a local researcher to be based in Cheticamp, who will lead community engagement and local research initiatives. A research Coordinator (probably based in Halifax) coordinator will connect the project to ongoing climate change adaptation research and expertise in the region. Two key local partners are involved in this work, the Conseil Economique de Cheticamp and the Gulf Aquarium and Marine Station (GAMS). The project will involve many other partners including universities and community colleges as well as non-profit, and provincial, and federal initiatives. The knowledge and experience gained from this project will help coastal, rural communities in the region, especially French speaking communities adapt to climate change.
As global warming occurs, average ocean temperatures become higher and sea level rises, thus accelerating the rate of erosion, increasing the number and severity of storm surges and contributing to the disappearance of wetlands. Wetlands are a vital link between land and water. They are home to fish and wildlife habitat, help purify water and act as a buffer for communities by slowing the erosion process and protection from possible flooding from storm waves.
With the loss of wetlands comes many ecological changes and community adaptation. This has become a concern of many groups across Atlantic Canada. The Cheticamp Climate Change Pilot Project has been initiated by GAMS, after being awarded a grant from Environment Canada Science Horizons Youth Internship Program. The research for the project involves the use of GIS technology to create maps outlining notable changes in coastal data for the Cheticamp region. Data from different time-frames is being used to illustrate specific climate change impacts such as retreating coastline and the loss the wetlands.
Cheticamp, along with other coastal communities in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, will benefit from this research. Once the impacts of retreating coastline and loss wetlands are identified, a monitoring program can then be established for collecting baseline data and taking steps for community adaptation to these impacts. The research and monitoring programs arising from this will serve as a model for communities throughout Nova Scotia in adapting their infrastructures to the effects of climate change.
The mapping component and gathering of coastal data has been initiated by Rémi Aucoin from Grand Etang. Aucoin has completed studies in both geography and GIS technology and has returned to the Cheticamp area after working several years in Ottawa.
The advancement of the project is possible due to the collaboration and partnerships with the following groups:
- Ecology Action Centre
- Environment Canada
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Cape Breton Highlands National Park
- Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
- St. Francis Xavier University
- LeMoine Development Association