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Map of the Northern Arctic ecozone  

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

Most of the archipelago north of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are included in the Northern Arctic.

Extending over most of the arctic islands, this is the coldest and driest part of the country. Winter nights last for days or even months, and average annual temperature is as low as -3║C in the northerly part of the region. Precipitation is so low here, only 100 to 200mm a year, that the region can be classified as an arctic desert. July and August are the only months in which snow doesn't usually lie on the ground. Permafrost, perpetually frozen ground, is present everywhere in this ecozone and can extend downwards for over a kilometre. Only a thin layer at the surface thaws during summer. The waters in the northern half of the Northern Arctic are permanently frozen, but the southern waters can be open in the summer, although ice still persists offshore throughout the year.

Geology and Geography
Photo: S.D. MacDonald, Canadian Museum of NatureThe western section of the ecozone consists of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rock. Towards the east, the bedrock is mostly Precambrian granite. Most of the Northern Arctic is flat or slightly rolling terrain. The west is littered with glacial deposits and shattered limestone. Plains may extend for several kilometres inland from the coast; once underwater, these plains are now rising as the continent rises after having been pushed down by glaciers during previous ice ages. The east is characterized by plateaus and rocky hills, which eventually lead to the Arctic Cordillera ecozone's mountains.

Flora and Fauna
The entirety of the Northern Arctic lies above the tree line, so no full-sized tree species can be found here. Very few plant species can survive in these conditions. Plants are generally stunted and become more so to the north.

Some plants found here include purple saxifrage, mountain avens, arctic poppy, arctic willow, Dryas species, kobresia, sedges, cottongrass, moss, dwarf birch, northern Labrador tea, Vaccinium species, alder, alpine foxtail, wood rush, wire rush, moss campions, white arctic heather, arctic bladder campion, yellow oxytrope, mastodon flower, arctic lousewort, mountain sorrel, pygmy buttercup, river beauty, chickweed.

Only about twenty mammal species live here. The largest are the carnivorous polar bear, and arctic wolf and the herbivourous barren-land caribou and muskox. The smaller carnivores found here include arctic fox, ermine, and wolverine, while smaller herbivores include the snowshoe hare, arctic hare, brown lemming and collared lemming. Aquatic mammals that live in the waters off the coast include
walrus, ringed seals, bearded seals, beluga, narwhal, and various other whales.

Most of the bird species migrate to the Northern Arctic in spring to mate, leaving in fall. Birds of prey that can be found in the northern arctic include gyrfalcon, rough-legged hawk, and snowy owl. Waterfowl include snow goose, brant, Canada goose, eider, oldsquaw duck, red-throated loon, arctic loon and king eider. Shorebirds and seabirds include the red phalarope, parasitic jaeger, red knot, dunlin, long-tailed jaeger, northern fulmar, glaucous gull, white-rumped sandpiper, black-bellied plover, and ruddy turnstone. Some forest birds of the ecozone are the willow ptarmigan, rock ptarmigan, hoary redpoll, snow bunting, lapland longspur, and horned lark.

Amphibians and Reptiles
No reptiles or amphibians can survive the conditions here.

Approximately 15 000 people live in the Northern Arctic, and the majority of the population is Inuit. Most people live through subsistence activities, such as hunting, trapping and fishing, though gas and oil exploration also provide a living for some, as does tourism.

A small arctic island
Spring melt
Polar Bear Pass, Bathurst Island
Ellesmere Island
Blowing snow
Arctic ice
Arctic landscape
Arctic sunset


Arctic CordilleraSouthern Arctic

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