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Map of the Boreal Plains ecozone  


Location | Climate | Geology and geography | Flora and fauna | Humans | Images

Location
The Boreal Plains are found in the centre of Alberta, extending east through the centre of Saskatchewan and slightly south of centre Manitoba.

Climate
A more northerly extension of the Prairie ecozone to its south, the Boreal Plains ecozone endures mean annual temperatures of around freezing. Summers are short and warm, winters cold. The Rocky Mountains block much of the moisture, resulting in precipitation of 300mm in the west to 625mm in the east.

Glaciers from many ice ages have flattened the landscape, and the large ancient lakes that resulted from their meltwater have left many dunes and are still present in many cases as smaller lakes.

Geology and Geography
Photo: National Library of CanadaFlat or slightly rolling terrain is the rule here, and thick soil deposits overlay Cretaceous shale bedrock.

Flora and Fauna
Plants
Much of the Boreal Plains are covered with forests despite heavy logging. Fires are common, and many species are very well adapted to them. Dominant tree species include white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir, jack pine, tamarack, white birch, water birch, Alaska paper birch, mountain alder, trembling aspen, Pacific willow, Bebb willow, pussy willow, Manitoba maple, and balsam poplar. The deciduous species are most commonly found in the south, the coniferous species to the north. The Saskatoon berry bush is one of the other plant species found here.

Animals
Extensive logging has reduced the population and ranges of many species. Wetlands and rivers have also suffered from pollution, increased water use and other human activities.

Mammals
Large carnivores in the ecozone include the black bear, wolf, and lynx. The most common large herbivores are elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, caribou, and bison. Smaller carnivores include the coyote, least weasel, river otter, badger, striped skunk, muskrat, marten, and fisher. There are many rodents, such as the northern pocket gopher, beaver, woodchuck, Richardson's ground squirrel, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Franklin's ground squirrel, least chipmunk, porcupine, eastern cottontail, and snowshoe hare.

Birds
Characteristic birds of prey include the great horned owl, boreal owl, northern saw-whet owl, short-eared owl, Cooper's hawk, red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, and turkey vulture. Some of the songbirds found here are the blue jay, evening grosbeak, rose-breasted grosbeak, ruby-throated hummingbird, cedar waxwing, whip-poor-will, purple finch, brown creeper, sedge wren, and the common crow. Some other birds of the forest are ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, northern flicker, downy woodpecker, and pileated woodpecker. Waterfowl include Franklinís gull, American white pelican, common loon, sandhill crane, western grebe, wood duck, ring-necked duck, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, mallard, gadwall, redhead, canvasback, Canada goose, and whooping cranes, which nest in wetlands in the extreme north of the ecozone.

Amphibians and reptiles
Two of the amphibian species here are the wood frog and american toad. The common garter snake can also be found.

Fish
Predatory fish here include lake sturgeon, brown trout, lake trout, northern pike, and walleye. They prey on such species as cisco (lake herring), lake whitefish, goldeye, lake chub, emerald shiner, and yellow perch.

Insects
A few of the insect species found here are the boreal spittlebug, spring azure, American copper, monarch butterfly, mourning cloak, and American cockroach.

Molluscs
Two species of molluscs found in the Boreal Plains are the arctic-alpine fingernail clam and the globular pea clam.

Humans
When first settled, the Boreal Plains were important for trading companies and the fur trade. For the past fifty years oil and gas has been the major economic focus in Alberta. Other natural resources have been important as well, especially forestry. The three-quarters of a million people who live in this ecozone are scattered in small communities rather than the larger urban concentrations found in most southern ecozones.

Images
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, Alberta
Elk Island National Park
North of Valleyview, Alberta
Wood Buffalo National Park

 

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