Canada, is the world's second largest country and it is the largest country in
the Western Hemisphere. It comprises all of the North American continent north
of the United States, with the exclusion of Alaska, Greenland, and the tiny
French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Its most easterly point is Cape
Spear, Newfoundland and its western limit is Mount St. Elias in the Yukon
Territory, near the Alaskan border. The southernmost point is Middle Island, in
Lake Erie and the northern tip is Cape Columbia, on Ellesmere Island.
Canada is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the pacific
Ocean, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and its associated bodies of water,
including Baffin Bay and the Labrador Sea.
Canada has an abundance of mineral, forest, and water-power resources. The
mining industry has been a major force in Canada's economic development in the
past and is still the main force in the advance and economic activity and
permanent settlement into the northlands. The principal minerals are petroleum,
nickel, copper, zinc, iron ore, natural gas, asbestos, molybdenum, sulfur, gold,
and platinum; in addition extensive beds of coal, potash, uranium, gypsum,
silver, and magnesium are found.
Fresh water covers an estimated 756 276 sq km or 7.6% of Canada. The many
rivers and lakes supply ample fresh water to meet the nation's needs for its
communities and for irrigation, agriculture, industries, transportation, and
hydroelectric power generation. Canada has four principal drainage basins: the
Atlantic Basin which drains to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Great Lakes and
the St. Lawrence River, the Hudson Bay Basin which drains northward into Hudson
Bay via the Churchill, Nelson and Saskatchewan rivers, the Arctic Basin which is
drained by the Mackenzie River and the Pacific Basin which drains into the
Pacific Ocean via the Fraser, Yukon and Columbia rivers.
Canada has six major physical, or physiographic, regions: the Canadian Shield,
the Arctic Islands, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Appalachian
Region, the Interior Plains, and the Cordilleran Region.
In simple terms, Canada can be considered a vast, saucer-shaped basin, bordered
by mountainous lands on the west, east, and northeast. Hudson Bay and the
lowlands along its southern shore form the central depression of this saucer.
Surrounding this depression on all sides, including Baffin Island, is the
Canadian Shield (also known as the Laurentian Plateau or Laurentian Upland).
The Canadian Shield is a region of ancient, mostly Precambrian rocks that covers
nearly half of Canada. The Canadian Shield includes all of Labrador and large
areas of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories. As a result
of glacial action during the Pleistocene Ice Age, much of the region is covered
with numerous lakes and marshy areas as well as rolling hills from worn down
mountains. The Canadian Shield was formed in the early Paleozoic era and is
composed of igneous rock. Podzolic soils, which are soils of low natural
fertility cover much of this area, they are also quite wet from the climate.
The climate in this area varies quite a bit due to the different levels of
elevation. Arctic climate conditions are found in the northern areas, these
areas generally have dry and cold conditions. Boreal conditions are found in
the midsection, the conditions are generally cold and wet. South-Eastern
climate conditions are found in the south, these climate conditions are
generally cool and wet. Precipitation is fairly heavy in northern Quebec and
Labrador. The climate and acidic soils in this area do not create proper
conditions for agriculture. Some coniferous and deciduous forests are found in
this area as well as, shrubs, litchen and heath.
The Arctic Islands lie to the northwest of the central depression and constitute
about 8.3% of Canada's land area. They are mostly covered by permanent snow and
ice fields. The northern sections of the region include the United States Range,
which reaches 2926 m in northern Ellesmere Island. The southern sections are
lower in altitude and are sometimes referred to collectively as the Arctic
Lowlands and Plateaus. The Arctic Mountains are primarily composed of igneous
and metamorphic rock. The mountains are very young mountains with jagged peaks.
The Arctic Lowlands are made solely of sedimentary rock. Glaciation has worn
down the land in this area leaving it flat with some rounded hills. Tundra and
subarctic soils cover all of this area and ice and stone deserts are found over
large areas as well. The subsoil in much of this area is permanently frozen,
and the soils are unsuitable for agriculture. The sparsely settled northern
areas have an arctic, or tundra, type of climate on the islands and northern
coastal areas and a subarctic type of climate in the vast transitional area
between the frozen north and the settled south. The arctic type of climate is
characterized by long, very cold winters, with average temperatures far below
freezing and no summer month with an average temperature higher than 10 degrees
C. In the subarctic areas, winters are similarly long and bitterly cold, but
summers are warm enough to support some vegetation growth. Precipitation is
generally light in the western areas of the arctic and subarctic regions.
Despite the low precipitation, snow covers the ground permanently for more than
6 months of every year. Tundra vegetation covers most of this area. The low
temperatures and permanently frozen subsoil inhibits the growth of most plants
except the hardy mosses and lichens. Various grasses and flowers are also found.
Trees are absent, except for dwarf trees and some berry-bearing shrubs.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands region constitutes only 1.3% of Canada but
is the area where most people live. It is composed of sedimentary rock. It is
a flat to gently rolling region that extends southwest from Quebec City to Lake
Huron and includes all of the St. Lawrence River valley and the Ontario
Peninsula, a triangular, densely populated area of southern Ontario that is
bordered by the shores of Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Brown and gray brown
podzilic soils cover most of this area. These soils are naturally fertile and,
when properly farmed, support a wide range of crops and other agricultural
activities. The climate here is a more humid version of a continental type of
climate. The winters are long and cold with an average temperature of -10
degrees C in the eastern sections and -4 degrees C in the Ontario Peninsula, and
short warm summers with average temperatures of near 20 degrees C. Eastern
forests are native to this area, both deciduous trees such as sugar maple and
beech and coniferous trees such as yellow pine, white and red pine,and hemlock
are found here.
The Appalachian Region occupies approximately 3.4% of Canada and is the
northward continuation into Canada of the Appalachian Mountain system of the
eastern United States. It includes all of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince
Edward Island and the island of Newfoundland and forms most of Quebec's Gaspe
Peninsula. It is composed of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock. It is
a region of geologically old, worn-down uplands, with summits ranging from 150 m
to more than 1270 m. The highest and most rugged mountains are the Shickshock
Mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula, where Mount Jacques Cartier rises to 1270 m.
Podzolic soils, which are soils of low natural fertility are most extensive in
this area. They are found to be quite acidic, gray in colour and leached of
soil nutrients, but they are suitable for farming if fertilizers are used.
Frontal weather conditions are found here as a result of the meeting of the
tropical maritime air mass and the maritime air mass. The mean annual
precipitation is quite high here as well. Boreal, or northern, coniferous
forest as well as deciduous forests are found here, but they are considered to
be non-productive due to expensive costs.
The Interior Plains lie between the Canadian Shield and the Rocky Mountains and
are a continuation of the Great Plains of the United States. The region
occupies 18.3% of Canada. It extends to the Arctic coast and includes the
northeastern section of British Columbia and parts of the prairie provinces of
Alberta. Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The area is composed of sedimentary rock.
It is an area of flat land with some rolling hills. The three chernozemic, or
black earth, soils are the most important in this region. They account for
nearly all of Canada's wheat production. The true chernozem, or black earth, is
extremely productive and is found in an arc passing through Winnipeg, Edmonton,
and Calgary. To the south forming a more southerly arc passing through Regina,
Saskatoon, and Lethbridge, and reflecting a somewhat drier climate of this
region, are the dark brown soils. Brown soils predominate in the southern,
semiarid parts of the interior plains. The Interior Plains have a middle-
latitude steppe-type climate in the drier southern sections and a more humid and
extreme continental type of climate elsewhere. Temperatures average about -20
degrees to -15 degrees C in long winters and 18 degrees to 20 degrees C in short
summers. Precipitation is not very high here. Many areas receive less than 500
mm a year. Natural grasslands, or prairies, once extended across the southern
part of the interior plains. These natural grasslands have been largely plowed
under and replaced by field crops, such as; grain, and other mixed farming. The
combination of the good soil conditions and climate conditions allows for the
production of good crops.
The Cordilleran Region occupies 15.9% of all Canada and includes most of British
Columbia and the Yukon Territory and the southwestern corner of Alberta. It is
a complex mountain system composed of sedimentary rock and young fold mountains
with jagged peaks. The mountains are approximately 800 km wide and they extend
along the pacific coast. The three main subsections of the region are the
eastern ranges, the western ranges and an intermontane area between the two.
The eastern ranges include the Rocky Mountains in the south and the Mackenzie
and Richardson Mountains in the north. The western ranges of the region include
the St. Elias Mountains, the scenic Coast Mountains, and a partially submerged
range that appears offshore; Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands.
The intermontane section of the Cordilleran Region, located between the eastern
and western ranges, is a series of wide, rolling tablelands, such as the Fraser
and Kamloops plateaus, and short mountain ranges, such as the Cascade, Cariboo,
Selkirk, Monashee, Purcell, Stikine, Skeena, and Hazelton mountains. The soils
of the Cordilleran Region, as in all mountain areas, follow attitudinal and
climatic zones and, where topography and climate are suitable support a variety
of agricultural activity. Precipitation is quite heavy here where moisture-
laden winds from the Pacific Ocean are forced to rise over the mountainous
coastal regions and bring more than 5000 mm of rain a year in some areas. The
third great forest zone is found here due to the humidity. It is a dense, tall-
timber forest where Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar are the
Most of Canada's people live in the southern part of the country, in an
elongated, discontinuous belt of settlement parallel to the U.S.-Canadian border.
The most populated provinces are Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
During the last 75 years, the Canadian economy has been transformed from on
based primarily on agricultural production and the export of agricultural
products and raw materials to one based primarily on its manufacturing and
service sectors, as well as a mining sector of continuing importance. Canada's
economy reflects an affluent high-tech industrial society and resembles the
United States, with whom it has close economic ties. This is one reason why a
large percentage of the population live by the U.S.-Canadian border. Another
reason is because a large number of the manufacturing plants are located in the
southern section of Canada.
Canada is rich in natural resources. It is a world leader in value of mineral
exports and produces and exports many of the mineral needed for modern
industrial economies. It's soils which are especially rich in the three prairie
provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, are intensively utilized and
make Canada one of the world's largest exporters of agricultural products.
Forests cover much of the land, and Canada is the world's largest exporter of
newsprint and a leading supplier of lumber, pulp, paper, and wood products.