From Sea to Sea... to Sea!
Occupying the northern-half of the North American continent, Canada has a land mass of 9,970,610 km², making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. From West to East, Canada encompasses six time zones: Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, Atlantic and Newfoundland (which is only 1/2 an hour greater than Atlantic).
Canada's motto, "From Sea to Sea," is geographically inaccurate. In addition to its coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific, Canada has a third sea coast on the Arctic Ocean, giving it the longest coastline of any country in the world.
To the south, Canada shares a 8,892km boundary with the United States of America. To the north, the Arctic Islands come within 800 km of the North Pole. Canada's neighbour across the Arctic Ocean is Russia.
A Long Thin Band
Because of the extremely harsh northern climate, only 12 percent of the Canadian land mass is suitable for agriculture. Thus, most of the population live within a few hundred kilometres of the southern border, where the climate is milder, in a long thin band stretching between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
Numberless Lakes and Great Rivers
If you fly over Manitoba or northern Ontario in summer, you will see more water than land: lakes, big and small, so many that they could not possibly be counted. It has been estimated that Canada has one seventh of the world's fresh water. In addition to the Great Lakes, which it shares with the United States, Canada has many large rivers and lakes.
Parks and Wildlife
It is much better to explore first-hand the geography of Canada than to read about it. The country's National, Territorial and Provincial parks represent every landform and preserve the wildlife native to those regions: from the bird watchers' paradise of Point Pelée, a stopping-off point for migratory birds crossing Lake Erie, to the glaciers and fiords of Auyuittuq ("the land that never melts") on Baffin Island in the Arctic; from the rain forest of Vancouver Island to the stark cliffs and highlands of Gros Morne in western Newfoundland.
Whether tiny or enormous, Canadian parks are living museums, as diverse, vast and fascinating as Canada itself.
These 5 regions can be further broken down as follows:-
1. The Pacific Coast - The Cordillera
Bathed by warm, moist Pacific air currents, the British Columbia coast, indented by deep fiords and shielded from the Pacific storms by Vancouver Island, has the most moderate climate of Canada's regions.
Vancouver Island's west coast receives an exceptional amount of rain, giving it a temperate rain forest climate. Although it does not contain the diversity of species of a tropical rain forest, the island's west coast does have the oldest and tallest trees in Canada: western red cedars 1,300 years old and Douglas firs over 90 metres high.
From British Columbia to just east of the Alberta border the land is young, with rugged mountains and high plateaus. Signs of geologically recent volcanic activity can be seen in Garibaldi Provincial Park in southern British Columbia and at Mount Edziza in the north.
The Rocky Mountains, the Coast Mountains and other ranges, running north to south, posed major engineering problems for the builders of the transcontinental railways and highways. Canada's highest peaks, however, are not in the Rockies, but in the St. Elias Mountains, an extension of the Cordillera stretching north into the Yukon and Alaska. The highest point in Canada, mount Logan (6050 m), rises amid a huge icefield in the southwest corner of Yukon, the largest icecap south of the Arctic Circle.
The British Columbia interior varies from alpine snowfields to deep valleys where desert-like conditions prevail. On the leeward side of the mountains, for example, a rain-shadow effect is created, forcing Okanagan Valley farmers to irrigate their orchards and vineyards.
2. The Interior Plains - The Prairies
To drive across the Prairies is to see endless fields of wheat and canola ripening under a sky that seems to go on forever. The plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are among the richest grain-producing regions in the world.
Yet even here are surprises. If you leave the road at Brooks, Alberta, and drive north, you descend into the Red Deer River valley. Here, in desert-like conditions, water and wind have created strange shapes in the sandstone called "hoodoos." The same forces of erosion have uncovered some of the largest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world.
Alberta is Canada's leading producer of petroleum. The sedimentary rocks underlying the Prairies have important deposits of oil, natural gas and potash.
3. The Canadian Shield
A huge inland sea called Hudson Bay extends into the heart of Canada, and wrapped around this bay is a rocky region called the Canadian Shield. Canada's largest geographical feature, it stretches east to Labrador, south to Kingston on Lake Ontario and northwest as far as the Arctic Ocean.
The Shield is considered to be the nucleus of the North American continent and is made up of roots of ancient mountains. Its gneiss and granite rocks are 3.5 billion years old, three quarters the age of the Earth. Scraped by the advance and retreat of glaciers, the Shield has only a thin layer of soil that supports a boreal forest of spruce, fir, tamarack and pine.
The region is a storehouse of minerals, including gold, silver, zinc, copper and uranium, and Canada's great mining towns are located there: Sudbury and Timmins in Ontario, Val d'Or in Quebec, and Flin Flon and Thompson in Manitoba.
4. St. Lawrence Lowlands - The Great Lakes
Southern Quebec and Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, contain Canada's two largest cities, Montreal and Toronto. In this small region, 50 percent of Canadians live and 70 percent of Canada's manufactured goods are produced.
The region also has prime agricultural land, for example the Niagara Peninsula. The large expanses of lakes Erie and Ontario extend the number of frost-free days, permitting the cultivation of grapes, peaches, pears and other fruits.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region is sugar maple country. In the autumn, the tree's leaves, Canada's national symbol, are ablaze in red, orange and gold. The sap is collected in spring and evaporated to make maple syrup and sugar, a culinary delicacy first prepared and used by the Aboriginal North American peoples.
5. Appalachian Region - The Atlantic Provinces
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland are the smallest Canadian provinces, and were the first to be settled by Europeans. Evidence of contact as far back as AD 1000 has been found at a Norse settlement at l'Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland.
The Grand Banks have been called the "wheat fields" of Newfoundland. This hallow continental shelf extends 400 km off the east coast, where the mixing of ocean currents has created one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Once thought to contain a virtually inexhaustible supply of fish, the Banks are now considered a vulnerable resource that must be wisely managed.
The Atlantic provinces are an extension of the Appalachians, an ancient mountain range. Much of the region has low, rugged hills and plateaus, and a deeply indented coastline. Agriculture flourishes in the fertile valleys, such as the Saint John River Valley, New Brunswick, and the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.
Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence has a gently rolling landscape with a rich, red soil. This fertile island is Canada's smallest province, making up a mere 0.1 percent of Canada's land mass.
6. The Arctic Lowlands - Innuitian Region
North of the tree line is a land of harsh beauty. During the short summer, when daylight is nearly continuous and a profusion of flowers blooms on the tundra, the temperature can reach 30°C. Yet the winters are long, bitterly cold, dark and unforgiving.
The Arctic is no longer an inaccessible frontier. inuvik, in the Mackenzie delta, can be reached by road, and every community is served by air. Most have electricity, stores and health services.
North of the mainland is a maze of islands separated by convoluted straits and sounds, the most famous of which link together to form the fabled Northwest Passage, the route to the Orient sought by so many early explorers.
Reflecting a growing autonomy, the Inuit (formerly known as Eskimos) are gradually changing place names into their language, Inuktitut. For example, the people of Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, Nunavut, decided to rename their community Iqualuit, which means "place of fish."
To many Canadians, ecozones should conjure up distinct images of the country - for example the Prairies, Boreal, Taiga, Arctic and Cordilleran ecozones bring to mind particular features such as mountains, plains, treed and treeless regions, distinct from one another in one or more of their characteristic features.
Canada is comprised of 20 ecozones. Fifteen ecozones make up terrestrial Canada and five make up the marine waters bordering Canada. The marine ecozones are displayed to the 200 nautical mile (372 km) economic limit.
Ecozones are useful for general national reporting and for placing Canada's ecosystem diversity in a North American or Global context.
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