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Hudson Plains  
Map of fhe Montane Cordillera ecozone  

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

This ecozone covers most of southern British Columbia and some of southwestern Alberta.

This is the most diverse of the country's ecozones in all respects. The effects of two mountain ranges means that climate varies in all three dimensions. The average annual temperatures in the north of the ecozone is 0.5ºC, in the south 7.5ºC. The dry summers and wetter winters alike are mild, though increased elevation brings lower temperatures.

The Coast Mountains force air masses to rise, where they cool off and lose their moisture as rain or snow, a phenomenon known as orographic precipitation. The western side of the Coast Mountains receives 1200 to 1500mm of precipitation in this way, while the eastern side receives only 300mm in the south and 500 to 800mm in the north and interior due to the dry air that makes it over the mountains. The Rocky Mountains at the eastern edge of the ecozone again catch precipitation, bringing 1200mm of precipitation annually to the western side of the mountains.

Geology and Geography
The mountains that make up much of the ecozone are formed of faulted sedimentary rock. The plains and valleys here often consist of glacial moraine or deposits from ancient lakes.

Flora and Fauna
Plants in the ecozone are as varied as the landforms they grow on. Vegetation that may be common in one area are often completely absent from another. Trees in the area include Engelmann spruce, alpine fir, interior Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, western white pine, Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine, trembling aspen, western hemlock, Rocky Mountain red cedar, balsam poplar, paper birch, black spruce, white spruce, and western larch. Some of the other species found here are sagebrush, rabbitbrush, antelope-bush, mountain avens, bunchgrass, pine grass, and bluebunch wheat grass.


The large herbivores include caribou, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, mountain goat, California bighorn sheep, and American elk. The large carnivores are the black bear, grizzly bear, wolf, lynx, bobcat, and cougar. Some of the small herbivores here are hoary marmot, yellowbelly marmot, Columbian ground squirrel, beaver, golden-mantled squirrel, yellow pine chipmunk, redtail chipmunk, beaver, northern bog lemming, and pika. Small carnivores that are found here include coyote, red fox, marten, wolverine, muskrat, badger, marten, mink, pallid bat, and striped skunk.

Birds of prey such as northern saw-whet owl, short-eared owl, long-eared owl, burrowing owl, cooper's hawk, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, northern goshawk, and turkey vulture are found here. The shorebirds and seabirds of the area include long-billed curlew, spotted sandpiper, american bittern, common snipe, killdeer, and black tern.
Songbirds of the Montane Cordillera include Stellar’s jay, black-billed magpie, sage thrasher, white-throated swift, red-winged blackbird, cedar waxwing, cassin's finch, house finch, purple finch, brown creeper, and American dipper. Waterfowl that are found here include sandhill crane, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, mallard, gadwall, redhead, ring-necked duck, canvasback, and Canada goose. The birds of the forest include blue grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, spruce grouse, chukar, California quail, Lewis' woodpecker, and downy woodpecker.

Amphibians and Reptiles
Some of the characteristic frogs and toads of the area are the wood frog, spotted frog, and western toad. One of the salamander species present here is the long-toed salamander. Snakes found in the region include rubber boa, common garter snake, racer, western rattlesnake, night snake, and western terrestrial garter snake. One of the lizards found here is the western skink.

Fish species that live in the ecozone include lake whitefish, chiselmouth, lake chub, peamouth, leopard dace, and redside shiner. White sturgeon and sockeye salmon both come to freshwater to spawn.

Molluscs found here include pig-toe, western-river pearl mussel, western floater, and arctic-alpine fingernail clam.

A few of the insects that live here are red turpentine beetle, boreal spittlebug, spring azure, mourning cloak, and migratory grasshopper.

Cattle grazing, forestry and mining are three of the major activities here. These and population growth all put pressure on the natural systems and even the many provincial parks in the ecozone through encroachment and habitat fragmentation. Tourism is also having an increasingly large effect on the area.

Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Sunwapta River, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park
Old Man River
Burstall Pass, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray National Park, British Columbia
Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Saskatchewan River, Banff, Alberta


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