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While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Natural regions are intended to describe areas of the Earth's surface which possess similar qualities or attributes. Natural regions, or ecozones, include descriptions of an area’s living organisms as well as its physical environment. The boundary lines between ecozones are often areas of transition where one set of ecozone characteristics gradually merges into another set. Ecozones represent large ecosystems and are useful for gaining a perspective on the nation as a whole. The Northern Arctic ecozone extends over most of the Arctic Islands and includes the northeastern portion of the Northwest Territories, most of Nunavut and parts of northern Quebec. In the global circumpolar setting, this ecozone constitutes the largest arctic archipelago. Most of this ecozone is associated with the most extensive set of islands in the entire circumpolar Arctic area. Because of the severe climate, vegetation is commonly ground-hugging and dwarf-like in form.
Hunting, fishing and trapping remain activities for local residents in this ecozone, most of whom are Inuit. This ecozone only covers 2.5 per cent (250,590 km2) of Canada though it is part of a larger ecosystem extending into Greenland.
At lower elevations, bedrock and the debris from frost-shattered rock covers the foot-slopes of the mountains. The Southern Arctic ecozone is largely restricted to the mainland and spans both sides of Hudson Bay. The Southern Arctic ecozone is where many of the more typical Arctic features begin to respond to the warmer temperatures and extended growing seasons. Mammals of the ecozone include muskox, wolf, arctic fox, grizzly and polar bears, arctic hare, arctic ground squirrel and lemmings. Taiga is derived from a Russian word that generally refers to very open and stick-like forests. It is uncommon in Canada to see mountain ranges that are not covered to a large extent by trees. The mammals that live in the area include Dall's sheep, woodland and barren-ground caribou, moose, mountain goat, black and grizzly bears, wolf, marten, lynx, arctic ground squirrel, American pika, hoary marmot and brown lemming. Most of this ecozone is a level or gently rolling plain, and has a discontinuous pattern of permafrost. The poorly drained areas are covered with moss, sedge, dwarf birch, Labrador Tea, willows and Bearberry. Mammals of the Taiga Plains include moose, woodland caribou, bison, wolf, black bear, marten, lynx and arctic ground squirrel. Living organisms may include plants, animals, insects and bacteria, while the physical environment encompasses rocks, soils, climate and water.
The transition between the treed boreal ecozones and the arctic ecozones, for example, may take place over tens of kilometres.
However, they can be further subdivided into smaller subsystems which have increasing significance at the provincial and local levels.
Hundreds of islands — as massive as Baffin Island and as small as Garnet Island — give this area a special character. The islands and mainland associated with this unit consist of mostly plains and rolling hills.
The resulting soils are frozen year-round except for thin surface layers that thaw in the brief summer period. The main vegetation in upland areas consists of lichens and herbs, whereas wetter lowland sites will be predominated by sedges and mosses.


Mammals of the Northern Arctic ecozone include Peary caribou, muskoxen, wolf, arctic fox, polar bear, arctic hare and collared lemmings. The terrain has marked relief (as is typical of fjord-dominated areas) and elevations (reaching over 2,000 m).
Very few people live here and climate stations are few in numbers and often located at low elevations. Coastal communities like Pond Inlet, Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq are examples of larger communities. Over three-quarters of this ecozone is on the western side of the bay in the northern parts of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. While the area is dominated by shrubs, herbs and wetland species, there is a fair range in the size of shrubs. Most strikingly, the area is the major summer and calving grounds for the barren ground caribou. It provides habitat for loons, whistling swan, snow goose, gyrfalcon, willow and rock ptarmigan, jaeger, snowy owl and snow bunting.
This ecozone is small — just under three per cent of Canada, or 264,840 km2 — and lies along the northern portion of the Rocky Mountains.
Plants with deep roots, such as trees, cannot easily grow here because the soil beneath the surface is often permanently frozen.
Their nesting grounds are fairly safe in this remote area, and there are abundant insects for food.
The uplands tend to be better drained and support a mixed forest of black and white spruce, larch, white birch, trembling aspen, balsam poplar and lodgepole pine. The term “natural region” is often used interchangeably with the word “ecozone.” Canada has 20 natural regions (15 terrestrial and five marine). Calcareous soils and bedrock along with the dry, cold climate can combine to create very harsh and desert-like conditions in some areas. In some areas where there is influence from nearby mountains, the precipitation can reach 500 mm, as in the Labrador area.
In landscapes where calcareous soils are prevalent, the plant cover and types of species are typically limited.
Plants such as purple saxifrage, mountain avens, arctic poppy, crustose lichens, cotton grass, arctic willow, moss campion, sedges, arctic lousewart, white heather and willow are common.
Birds include red-throated loon, brant, oldsquaw, gyrfalcon, ptarmigan, jaeger, snowy owl, snow geese and snow bunting.
As the Arctic has nearly 60 per cent of Canada's estimated oil resources and 50 per cent of the potential gas resources, various oil and gas activities have been active in the area. The Arctic Cordillera ecozone contains the only major mountainous region of Canada outside the western mountain system known as the Rockies. The tops of the mountains, however, are often mantled by ice caps towards the northern parts and by glaciers in the southern parts. These valleys are the only locations where plants thrive to any degree and some habitat is provided for animals.
The lower mountain slopes provide some vegetation cover, and this markedly increases in the narrow confines of fjord-carved valleys. These local communities have a collective population of just over a 1,000 people and constitute one of the world’s least populated areas. Some of the drumlins along the upper Back River are nearly flat and others west of Chantrey Inlet are among the most dramatic in Canada.
Near the poleward limits of trees to the south, the sizes of the shrubs vary from a metre and decrease to heights of a few centimetres toward the northern edge.
Nearly a million caribou migrate here including the Qaminirjuaq, Beverly, Bathurst, Bluenose and Porcupine herds of the territories, and the Leaf and George River herds of northern Quebec and Labrador. It covers parts of the Yukon and the southwestern part of the Mackenzie District in the Northwest Territories.


Other mountainous forms like buttes (cylindrical-like forms) and mesas (flat-topped mountains with steep sides) are found here. Much of its notoriety comes from the many naturally-occurring square-to-rectangular lakes that cover the vast expanse of flatlands.
The average growing season ranges from 1,000 GDD in the south to about 750 GDD in the north. However, on Devon Island, and the Brodeur and Borden peninsulas, steeply-sided coastal cliffs of 200 to 300 m separate land from water. These are indications of how the landscape is subject to the churning caused by repeated freezing and thawing cycles. The average growing season ranges from less than 125 to 250 growing degree days (GDD) above 5°C. Where the soil material is derived from shales or sandstones, the cover and types of species are better.
The waterfowl, in particular, rely on the Arctic wetlands and small lakes as key breeding and nesting grounds during the summer period.
National parks like Aulavik on Banks Island and Auyuittuq on Baffin Island attest to the area's beauty. It provides an eastern spine to the Arctic, occupying most of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands, as well as the eastern edges of Devon, Bylot and Baffin Islands, and parts of northern Labrador.
Man-made constructions such as pipelines or roads must use special designs over the years to prevent the disruption of habitat, as well as wildlife migration routes. Summers are short and cool as the mean daily temperatures only rise above freezing in July and August. The poorly- drained lowlands and wetlands normally provide the most diverse and rich sites for plants. As in many of the Arctic ecozones, the summer period in which the mean average temperature is above freezing is brief (July and August mainly), but the periods of daylight are extremely long. Examples include crustose lichens, purple saxifrage, mountain avens, cottongrass, willows, moss campion and arctic heather. Being relatively untouched by ice-scouring activities of the last Ice Age, it is well known as a "refugia" for many plants.
Soils are generally frozen throughout most of the year and thaw to moderate depths in the summer. The Brodeur Plateau is vast and seemingly uninterrupted for over 300 km, and is dissected, very much like the southern badlands, with mesas and painted canyons.
In the nearby marine environment, typical species include walrus (in the east), seals (bearded, harp and harbour), beluga whales and narwhal. These rivers of ice spread outwards from the peaks like roots on a tree, slowly crawling down through the valleys. Easterly flowing rivers such as the Thelon and Back have played an important part in history and are currently used for canoeing and wilderness adventures. The occurrence of permafrost throughout the landscape is variable and therefore, is considered to be discontinuous. Beyond the traditional mineral soils, the ground may contain massive ice lenses tens of metres thick. While the Barnes Ice Cap is in the middle of Baffin Island, the majority of the famous ice caps — Devon Island, Ellsemere Island and Grise Fjord — are north of Lancaster Sound.




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