Terrain shapes and bedrock
Canada’s land area comprises two-fifths of North America. It is largely designed as a large, central basin area with highlands in the periphery, especially in the west. At the heart of this landmass is an outgrowth with a sink in the middle, which is occupied by Hudson Bay. Several major landform regions can be discerned.
The Canadian Shield covers about half of the country’s area and spreads with plains and plateaus around the Hudson Bay basin. The Precambrian bedrock has contributed to giving much resemblance to the Fennoscandian upland area with respect to the main features of the natural landscape. A prolonged erosion has prepared deep-lying penplane surfaces, and the quaternary icings have also created a glacially embossed detail topography, which is strongly reminiscent of Sweden and Finland. The fairly monotonous land surface exhibits round pits, troughs and lakes, as well as a moraine blanket, often with large blocks, as well as pebbles and other forms of accumulation. Especially in the west along the border with younger sedimentary rocks, the erosion has created a number of large lakes from Manitoba’s northwest shore, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Athabasca, Lake Stora Slav and Lake Stora Björnsjön. Most of the area is less than 600 meters above sea level. However, faults have led to a number of blocks of stone being higher, especially in the peripheral areas. So, for example, Baffin Island in the north more than 2,000 m above sea level, and fjords are found that have 700-1,000 m high sides. High areas are further east in the southern coast of the Hudson Sound and in the southeast with a 600 m high slope along the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The lowland at Hudson Bay has its largest extent south of the bay and has a bedrock of silurian marine formations.
Northwest of the western shield area of the Canadian Shield, the Arctic Islands are spreading, where the large islands in the south, Victoria Island and Bank Island, form a plateau and lowland. Further north is a large number of mountainous islands, with Ellesmere Island along Greenland’s northern coast as the highest, up to 3,050 m above sea level.
Inner Plains, Great Plains, extends as a wide zone from the border with the United States between the shield area to the east and the Cordillarians to the west. The bedrock consists of flat, sedimentary rocks, mostly from chalk and tertiary. At the far west, however, the rock form is more complicated, as the formation of the rock chain has caused disruption and disintegration. The Inner Plains, which comprise one fifth of Canada’s area, begin in the south with the Manitoba Basin at a level of 180-275 m asl. It is covered by fine-grained and fertile soils, once deposited in Lake Agassiz; this spread in bedlacial time at the ice edge, where it covered large areas, which are now partly occupied by the late followers of Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg. After a series of hills and slopes, a higher lying prairie area in Saskatchewan, now partially cultivated. It lies between 400 and 600 meters above sea level, has fertile soil and is quite undulating. A third surface, 600-100 m above sea level, forms Alberta’s plateau. Even further north, the Mackenzie River’s lowland, which lies between 150 and 1,200 m above sea level, is spreading. and only has certain areas that are even and inhabited by lakes and marshes.
Farther to the west, the Canadian Cordillera rises quite abruptly from the interior plains. With a total width of about 800 km, several parallel zones run in a north-south direction. It starts in the east with the mighty peaks and ridges that are part of the Rocky Mountains. At least 30 peaks reach over 3,000 meters above sea level, with Mount Robson being the highest, 3,954 meters above sea level. A large number of snow and ice fields occur and enhance the beauty of the scenes. Here are also five of Canada’s national parks, the oldest deposited in 1885. West of a marked, 24 km wide lowering, the relief is lower with plateau surfaces and long valleys. Farthest to the west, the Coast Mountains, which has Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan, runs 5,959 m above sea level. Along the coast there are also many deep, scenic fjords and large islands.
The Appalachian region of eastern Canada is another highland. It is characterized by rounded rocky hills and intermediate valleys. This includes The Gaspé Peninsula, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It is built up of ancient rocks, wrinkled during Paleozoic times.
The lowlands of the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River form a special landform region, which includes Ontario and southern Quebec. The terrain consists mostly of smaller lowland and hill areas, lower than 650 m above sea level, and valleys and cuesta ridges, among which the Niagara slope is the most famous.
Canada has a cold-tempered climate type, except in a narrow zone along the Pacific Ocean which has a warm-temperate climate and an area in the northwest that has a polar climate. Winter is long and cold with temperatures lower than −10 °C in most of the country’s interior and with −40 °C in the northern part of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Only the west coast has winter temperatures above 0 °C.
The summer temperature is between 10 and 20 °C in most of Canada, except in the northernmost regions and islands, which are lower than 10 °C.
Precipitation is the largest along the Pacific coast, averaging 2,540 mm per year. Even on the Atlantic coast, humid air is brought in from the sea, and the amount of precipitation in the southern parts is 1,000 mm per year. The inner plains, on the other hand, have precipitation lower than 500 mm, and some parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta form a semi-arid region. In winter, these parts can be affected by blizzard, a cold wind mixed with drifting snow, and in winter and spring by chinook, which in a few minutes can raise the temperature several degrees and thereby cause snowmelt but also enable bait for the animals even in winter time.
Plant-and animal life
Canadian nature is very similar to the one we meet in Sweden. Many species are also identical or at least related to ours, but Canada is generally more abundant. There are about 185 species of mammals, 550 species of birds (including non-breeding), almost 40 species of reptiles and 35 species of amphibians.
In southwestern Canada lies Vancouver Island, one of the country’s most famous destinations. Every year, millions of people visit the island to experience the unique nature. Most famous is the Clayoquot Sound with its temperate rainforests of Douglas fir, West American hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and sitkagran. These trees are normally 60 m high, the Douglas fir is sometimes as much as 100 m. High up in the crowns of the tree nest the rare marble alcove (Brachyramphus marmoratus), and although it is relatively easy to see when hunting along the island’s shores, very few nests have been found.
In the southeastern part of the island lives the endangered vancouver marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). In 1997 there were so few animals left that they decided to catch some for breeding. The first animals born in captivity were released in 2003 when fewer than 25 marmots were left in freedom, and in 2013 the wild tribe amounted to 350–400 animals.
Sea turtles were exterminated from the island by fur hunters in 1929, but reintroduced from Alaska beginning 1969-72. Nowadays, the species is found along the entire western side of the island with a strain of more than 3,000 animals.
Among other mammals are the wolf, black bear and cougar.
Among Vancouver’s many healthy and smaller islands, you can easily see white-headed sea eagles.
In the Scott Islands off the north-west point of Vancouver Island and the Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserve, which includes six islands in the strait between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland, more than 1 million alcs, storm whales, cormorants and gulls live. Alkorna includes seven species: more than half of the entire global population of Cassin’s auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) and rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), tofslunnefågel (Fratercula cirrhata), hornlunnefågel (Fratercula corniculata), guillemot, thick-billed murre, and pigeon guillemot (Cepphus columba). Among the other birds can be seen tailed whales, gray whales (Oceanodroma furcata), pelagic cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus), blue-throated cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus), gray-winged trout (Larus glaucescens) and rocky shorebird (Haematopus bachmani).
Many of the tourists who visit Vancouver Island come to see killer whales and gray whales; special tours are provided to experience these magnificent animals.
Just south of Vancouver City, the Fraser River opens into the Pacific Ocean, and here is one of Canada’s most important areas for moving and overwintering wetland birds, especially for tundra snake (Calidris mauri), snow goose, trumpet swan (Cygnus buccinator), barge goose, gray-winged trout, American American) and dark tail dipping (Aechmophorus occidentalis). The Fraser River also belongs to British Columbia’s famous salmon rivers. Each year, from May to December, 10 million salmon migrate from the Pacific to the source streams in the province’s rivers. There are five different species: royal salmon, indian salmon, silver salmon, dog salmonand humpback salmon, which differ in shape, color, size and migratory behavior. Another migratory fish is white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), a giant that can grow up to 6 m long and weigh over 800 kg.
The concentration of fish does not only attract anglers. Especially grizzly bear but also black bear loves to fish. Along the coast of British Columbia there is a special form of black bear called kermode bear or spirit bear that is white to beige in color and a significantly more effective salmon fisher than the black bears. The bright bears thrive best in pristine forests with unregulated rivers and have therefore become a symbol of the preservation of British Columbia rainforests.
The rocky mountains are covered by coniferous forests with, among other things, western white pine (Pinus monticola), contorta pine, angelic spruce and Douglas fir. Typical animals here are the snow, thick-horned sheep, vapiti (North American deer), black-tailed deer, cougar and black bear.
Banff National Park in southwest Alberta was founded in 1885 and is the country’s oldest and most famous. Here you will find a typical landscape for the Rocky Mountains with high mountains, glaciers, vast forests and alpine meadows. The fauna is rich with grizzly bears, black bears, Canadian lions, wolves, wolves, cougars, moose, vapiti, white- tailed deer, black-tailed deer, thick-horned sheep, snow, North American beaver and many bird species. Here also lives a tribe of the largest form of caribou, woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) which, unlike other forms of caribou, does not undertake annual hikes.
In southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, prairie, that is, treeless grassland, is the natural vegetation type. Today, this is practically completely cultivated. There once roamed large herds of bison, today decimated into small numeraries within the nature reserve. The prairie is also home to black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), which is a type of ground squirrel, fork antelope and prairie wolf.
In Grasslands National Park in southwestern Saskatchewan near the border of Montana in the United States is Canada’s best-preserved prairies with most typical residents: black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyote, greater sage-grouse (centrocercus urophasianus), burrowing owl and ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). Bison and black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) have both been reintroduced after being extinct. The National Park has been set aside as one of Canada’s few Dark Sky Reserves, where you can experience a starry sky without light pollution, which favors night-active animal species such as black-footed ferrets.
Along the Arctic north coast, on the non-iced Arctic islands and in large areas around Hudson Bay, the vegetation is treeless tundra. Here grows perennial herbs, grass and semi-grass, rice and dwarf bushes as well as mosses and lichens. Among the animals are caribou (North American reindeer), musk ox, polar bear, wolf, mountain fox, polarhare, lizards, mountain owl and mountain ridge as well as hunting falcon, snow goose and a variety of waders.
Bank Island in the eastern part of the Beaufort Sea has many unique natural values. Here, in the tundra, the world’s largest strain of musk ox (68,000 animals) lives side by side with wolf, fox fur, cougar, polarhare, polar bear, brown limb (Lemmus trimucronatus), and collar fungus (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus). Here is also the smallest form of the wild animals in North America, the threatened subspecies pearycaribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi).
On Banksön there are also typical Arctic bird species such as mountain owl, mountain deer, hunting falcon, mountain lobster, patch sparrow, tern gull, pragmatids and broad-billed swimming snap. On the west side of the island is the Egg River where about 500,000 snow geese breed each year. Aulavik National Park is set aside in the northern part of the island.
In the sea around Banksön there are bays, big seals, white whales and Greenland whales.
Queen Maud Bay in northern Canada’s mainland is the North American Eldorado for nesting geese with more than 2 million nesting pairs. The most common is snow goose followed by dwarf snow goose (Chen rossii). Other species are goose goose, barley goose and a rare form of canada goose.
On the islands of Foxe Basin south of Baffin Island, there are the world’s largest concentrations of seagulls, broad-billed sea snails and white gum snap (Calidris fuscicollis).
Churchill in western Hudson Bay is world famous for its polar bears. The best time to see them is in October – November when the bears leave the tundra and head to the ice forests to hunt seals.
During the summer months when the ice breaks, 57,000 whales are collected along the southwestern part of Hudson Bay for feeding kids and fishing in the nutrient-rich waters. It is the world’s largest collection of white whales.
South of the tundra
Directly south of the tundra, black spruce and white spruce dominate, and further south a wide forest belt runs across the country. In addition to the above-mentioned spruces, there are Canadian larch (Larix laricina), bankian pine (Pinus banksiana), balsam poplar, American aspen (Populus tremuloides), paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and the eastern balsam fir dominant tree species. Typical animals in these forests are moose, caribou, wolf, red fox, black bear, Canadian lo, North American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus), woodland marsh (Marmota monax), North American beaver, snowshoe hares and various yarns, owls, woodpeckers and forest singers.
The Mackenzie River in northwestern Canada has a catchment area four times as large as Sweden and represents a vast wilderness area with extensive boreal forests and marshes. Where the river flows into the Beaufort Sea, a large delta spreads. Here large amounts of snow goose, wind goose and barley goose break, as well as smaller song swans during the move and more than 5,000 whales feed their young in the shallow water areas. On the outermost islands lives a tribe of grizzly bears.
Wood Buffalo National Park on the border between northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories was set aside in 1922 to protect Canada’s last trunk of bison forest form. Today, there are 5,000 individuals. There is also a unique group of wolves that specialize in hunting bison. The National Park houses the only surviving group of free-living trumpet turtle (Grus americana). The species was about to be exterminated during the 1940s, but through special protection of nesting sites, migration routes and wintering areas in Texas, and breeding in captivity, the crane has increased from 21 to over 260 individuals. In the southwestern part of the park, Peace River and Athabasca River unite to form a large inland delta with many nesting ducks and up to 1 million resting birds during the spring and autumn migration.
In southeastern Canada, east of the Great Lakes, rich leafy forests are spreading with maples, American Red Book (Fagus grandifolia), birches, weymouth pine and hemlock.
Where the gigantic Saint Lawrence River meets the Atlantic, there is an isolated tribe of white whales. At the end of the 1880s, the number of individuals was estimated to be around 10,000, but today there are only 1,000 animals left. Poisons and other changes in the habitat prevent a recovery.
Newfoundland, which is mainly covered by coniferous forests, has been isolated from the mainland for 12,000 years. During that time, ten of the fourteen land mammal species have evolved into their own subspecies. Outside Newfoundland lies Funk Island with Canada’s largest colony of herringbone and seabirds as well as nesting puffins, thunderstorms, stormbirds (see stormbirds) and three-headed gulls – all typical Atlantic species.
To the east of Nova Scotia is Sable Island, a large sandy island with a large colony of gray seals and clover seals as well as nesting sea ostrich and fish tern, also well-known species from Europe.
In Canada, there were 40 national parks in 2009, three of which were marine parks. Largest was the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta (44,800 km2), which was set aside for the protection of forest bison (a subspecies of bison). The largest protected area was Cape Churchill in Manitoba with 137 072 km2 (like Götaland and just over half Svealand). Some of the other more well-known national parks were Jasper in Alberta, Glacier in British Columbia and Kluane in Yukon.
|Aulavik National Park
|Auyuittuq National Park
|Banff National Park
|Bruce Peninsula National Park
|Cape Breton Highlands National Park
|Elk Island National Park
|Fathom Five National Marine Park
|Forillon National Park
|Fundy National Park
|Georgian Bay Islands National Park
|Glacier National Park
|Grasslands National Park
|Gros Morne National Park
||Newfoundland and Labrador
|Ivvavik National Park
|Jasper National Park
|Kejimkujik National Park
|Kluane National Park and Reserve
|Kootenay National Park
|Kouchibouguac National Park
|Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
|La Mauricie National Park
|Mount Revelstoke National Park
|Point Pelee National Park
|Prince Albert National Park
|Prince Edward Island National Park
||Prince Edward Island
|Pukaskwa National Park
|Quttinirpaaq National Park
|Riding Mountain National Park
|Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park
|Sirmilik National Park
|Saint Lawrence Islands National Park
|Terra Nova National Park
||Newfoundland and Labrador
|Torngat Mountains National Park
||Newfoundland and Labrador
|Tuktut Nogait National Park
|Ukkusiksalik National Park
|Vuntut National Park
|Wapusk National Park
|Waterton Lakes National Park
|Wood Buffalo National Park
|Yoho National Park