The scale of sand dune erosion in Prince Edward Island National Park due to post-tropical storm Fiona is “shocking” and has dramatically changed the landscape of some beaches, Parks Canada says.
Jennifer Stewart, external relations manager with Parks Canada in P.E.I., said the storm has caused the most severe coastal erosion she’s seen since she began her career in 2000.
The erosion is particularly significant at Dalvay Beach, she said, where dune systems used to block the view of the water from the nearby roadway.
“There was a dune system. It’s completely gone, and now the road is eroding away,” Stewart said in an interview.
“It is shocking. It completely changed the look of the landscape in this area.”
The post-tropical storm left a trail of destruction across Atlantic Canada, stretching from Nova Scotia’s eastern mainland to Cape Breton, P.E.I. and southwestern Newfoundland.
Stewart said the loss of dunes is troubling because they act as a natural barrier in protecting shoreline from the impact of storms and ocean swells.
“Luckily, coastal ecosystems are very dynamic,” Stewart said. As sediment is washed back on the beach, vegetation, such as marram grass, will catch the sand to develop new dunes.
“As this happens, marram grass will spread its roots under the surface of the sand, creating a living web to hold the sand in place,” she said.
While sand dunes are likely to reform, this process takes years, Stewart said. In order to encourage growth, she said, people should avoid the area where the dunes were to avoid disturbing the vegetation.
Another victim of erosion caused by Fiona was the frequently photographed sea-stack rock formation known as the Teacup Rock at Thunder Cove Beach.
Bruce Stewart, who lives a short drive away from where the teacup once sat in New London Bay, has been an avid photographer of the distinctive rock structure.
“Unfortunately all that’s left there now is a bit of the pedestal,” Stewart said. “The saucer, if you like.”
On his countless visits to Thunder Cove Beach, Stewart said he’s met photographers and tourists from all over the world snapping shots of the teacup.
Stewart said the loss of the landmark doesn’t compare to Fiona’s destruction of homes in Atlantic Canada, but he said it’s still “devastating.”
“What was so special about the teacup is that it was a natural formation. It wasn’t something that somebody went and crafted,” he said.
The lamented teacup joins the former Elephant Rock, which drew thousands of tourists over the years to Norway, P.E.I., on the Island’s northwestern tip until it also fell victim to the elements in the late 1990s.