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Southern Arctic  
Taiga Shield  
Map of the Taiga Plains ecozone  

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

The Taiga Plains are centered around the Mackenzie River in the western Northwest Territories, bordered by the mountains to the west, the arctic to the east, and the boreal forests of the boreal plains to the south.

Like the Taiga Shield to its east, the Taiga Plains has short, cool summers and long, cold winters. Mean summer temperatures range from 7șC in the north to 14șC in the south. Winter brings averages of -26șC in the Mackenzie delta and a relatively mild -15șC in the portion contained in Alberta and British Columbia. Snow and freshwater ice lasts for six to eight months, and permafrost is widespread. There is generally little rainfall here, only 200-500mm a year.

Geology and Geography
Photo: Dominic CollinsGeologically, this ecozone is primarily horizontally layered sedimentary rock; limestone, shale, and sandstone. The largest river in the country, the Mackenzie, flows through this ecozone and dominates its west, while the east is in turn dominated by the Great Slave and Great Bear lakes. Most of the terrain is flat or slightly rolling, but where the river or its tributaries have cut through the ground, canyons hundreds of metres deep can be found. The permafrost leads to large areas being waterlogged and remnants of glacier activity make the landscape more varied.

Flora and Fauna
Fires are fairly common, and many species are especially adapted to it, resulting in a patchwork of forest types where each patch is at a different stage of recovery from fire. Trees in the Taiga Plains include paper birch, willows, trembling aspen, tamarack, green alder, white spruce, balsam poplar, lodgepole pine, jack pine, dwarf birch, black spruce, and balsam fir. Some of the smaller plants that grow here are fire snag, wild rose, Labrador tea, bearberry, sedges, eriacaceous shrubs, cottongrass, moss, sphagnum moss, feathermoss, bog cranberry, and blueberry.

The black bear,
lynx, and wolf are the only large carnivores to be found here; smaller carnivores include red fox, ermine, and marten. Large herbivores include woodland caribou, wood bison, moose, and barren-ground caribou, while snowshow hare, red squirrel, arctic ground squirrel are some of the smaller herbivores.

Some of the most common birds of prey here, the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and osprey, are fish-eaters, though the hawk owl is not. Waterfowl, most of whom migrate to the Taiga Plains in spring and summer, include the red-throated loon, ring-necked duck, greater scaup, canvasback, and all manner of other ducks, geese and swans. Some ground-dwelling birds are the sharp-tailed grouse and willow ptarmigan, while some common birds of the forest include the raven,
gray jay, boreal chickadee, common raven, and common redpoll.

Reptiles and Amphibians
This region is too far north for reptiles, but the western toad, striped chorus frog, wood frog can be found here.

Fish that can be found in the lakes and rivers of the region include arctic lamprey, lake trout, lake and mountain whitefish, arctic cisco, longnose sucker, arctic grayling, dolly varden, burbot, walleye, and northern pike.

The large numbers of insects in this ecozone provide food for the insectivorous birds that come here to feed and breed. Molluscs like the muskeg stagnicola, arctic-alpine fingernail clam, and globular pea clam live in the waters of this ecozone.

Most settlements in the Taiga Plains are located by rivers, and most of the landscape has been virtually untouched by human activity. A majority of the 22 000 people who live here make their living through subsistence activities, but petroleum exploration, mining, and forestry also take place.

Beaver pond, Keg River, Alberta
Beaver pond and lodge, Keg River, Alberta


Southern ArcticTaiga Shield

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