Canada, is the world¹s second largest country and it is the largest country in the Western Hemisphere. It comprises all of the North American continent north of the United States, with the exclusion of Alaska, Greenland, and the tiny French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Its most easterly point is Cape Spear, Newfoundland and its western limit is Mount St. Elias in the Yukon Territory, near the Alaskan border. The southernmost point is Middle Island, in Lake Erie and the northern tip is Cape Columbia, on Ellesmere Island.
Canada is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and its associated bodies of water, including Baffin Bay and the Labrador Sea.
Canada has an abundance of mineral, forest, and water-power resources. The mining industry has been a major force in Canada¹s economic development in the past and is still the main force in the advance and economic activity and permanent settlement into the northlands. The principal minerals are petroleum, nickel, copper, zinc, iron ore, natural gas, asbestos, molybdenum, sulfur, gold, and platinum; in addition extensive beds of coal, potash, uranium, gypsum, silver, and magnesium are found.
Fresh water covers an estimated 756 276 sq km or 7.6% of Canada. The many rivers and lakes supply ample fresh water to meet the nation¹s needs for its communities and for irrigation, agriculture, industries, transportation, and hydroelectric power generation. Canada has four principal drainage basins: the Atlantic Basin which drains to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, the Hudson Bay Basin which drains northward into Hudson Bay via the Churchill, Nelson and Saskatchewan rivers, the Arctic Basin which is drained by the Mackenzie River and the Pacific Basin which drains into the Pacific Ocean via the Fraser, Yukon and Columbia rivers.
Canada has six major physical, or physiographic, regions: the Canadian Shield, the Arctic Islands, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Appalachian Region, the Interior Plains, and the Cordilleran Region.
In simple terms, Canada can be considered a vast, saucer-shaped basin, bordered by mountainous lands on the west, east, and northeast. Hudson Bay and the lowlands along its southern shore form the central depression of this ³saucer². Surrounding this depression on all sides, including Baffin Island, is the Canadian Shield (also known as the Laurentian Plateau or Laurentian Upland). The Canadian Shield is a region of ancient, mostly Precambrian rocks that covers nearly half of Canada. The Canadian Shield includes all of Labrador and large areas of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories. As a result of glacial action during the Pleistocene Ice Age, much of the region is covered with numerous lakes and marshy areas as well as rolling hills from worn down mountains. The Canadian Shield was formed in the early Paleozoic era and is composed of igneous rock. Podzolic soils, which are soils of low natural fertility cover much of this area, they are also quite wet from the climate. The climate in this area varies quite a bit due to the different levels of elevation. Arctic climate conditions are found in the northern areas, these areas generally have dry and cold conditions. Boreal conditions are found in the midsection, the conditions are generally cold and wet. South-Eastern climate conditions are found in the south, these climate conditions are generally cool and wet. Precipitation is fairly heavy in northern Quebec and Labrador. The climate and acidic soils in this area do not create proper conditions for agriculture. Some coniferous and deciduous forests are found in this area as well as, shrubs, litchen and heath.
The Arctic Islands lie to the northwest of the central depression and constitute about 8.3% of Canada¹s land area. They are mostly covered by permanent snow and ice fields. The northern sections of the region include the United States Range, which reaches 2926 m in northern Ellesmere Island. The southern sections are lower in altitude and are sometimes referred to collectively as the Arctic Lowlands and Plateaus. The Arctic Mountains are primarily composed of igneous and metamorphic rock. The mountains are very young mountains with jagged peaks. The Arctic Lowlands are made solely of sedimentary rock. Glaciation has worn down the land in this area leaving it flat with some rounded hills. Tundra and subarctic soils cover all of this area and ice and stone deserts are found over large areas as well. The subsoil in much of this area is permanently frozen, and the soils are unsuitable for agriculture. The sparsely settled northern areas have an arctic, or tundra, type of climate on the islands and northern coastal areas and a subarctic type of climate in the vast transitional area between the frozen north and the settled south. The arctic type of climate is characterized by long, very cold winters, with average temperatures far below freezing and no summer month with an average temperature higher than 10 degrees C. In the subarctic areas, winters are similarly long and bitterly cold, but summers are warm enough to support some vegetation growth. Precipitation is generally light in the western areas of the arctic and subarctic regions. Despite the low precipitation, snow covers the ground permanently for more than 6 months of every year. Tundra vegetation covers most of this area. The low temperatures and permanently frozen subsoil inhibits the growth of most plants except the hardy mosses and lichens. Various grasses and flowers are also found. Trees are absent, except for dwarf trees and some berry-bearing shrubs.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands region constitutes only 1.3% of Canada but is the area where most people live. It is composed of sedimentary rock. It is a flat to gently rolling region that extends southwest from Quebec City to Lake Huron and includes all of the St. Lawrence River valley and the Ontario Peninsula, a triangular, densely populated area of southern Ontario that is bordered by the shores of Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Brown and gray brown podzilic soils cover most of this area. These soils are naturally fertile and, when properly farmed, support a wide range of crops and other agricultural activities. The climate here is a more humid version of a continental type of climate. The winters are long and cold with an average temperature of -10 degrees C in the eastern sections and -4 degrees C in the Ontario Peninsula, and short warm summers with average temperatures of near 20 degrees C. Eastern forests are native to this area, both deciduous trees such as sugar maple and beech and coniferous trees such as yellow pine, white and red pine,and hemlock are found here.
The Appalachian Region occupies approximately 3.4% of Canada and is the northward continuation into Canada of the Appalachian Mountain system of the eastern United States. It includes all of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the island of Newfoundland and forms most of Quebec¹s Gaspe Peninsula. It is composed of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock. It is a region of geologically old, worn-down uplands, with summits ranging from 150 m to more than 1270 m. The highest and most rugged mountains are the Shickshock Mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula, where Mount Jacques Cartier rises to 1270 m. Podzolic soils, which are soils of low natural fertility are most extensive in this area. They are found to be quite acidic, gray in colour and leached of soil nutrients, but they are suitable for farming if fertilizers are used. Frontal weather conditions are found here as a result of the meeting of the tropical maritime air mass and the maritime air mass. The mean annual precipitation is quite high here as well. Boreal, or northern, coniferous forest as well as deciduous forests are found here, but they are considered to be non-productive due to expensive costs.
The Interior Plains lie between the Canadian Shield and the Rocky Mountains and are a continuation of the Great Plains of the United States. The region occupies 18.3% of Canada. It extends to the Arctic coast and includes the northeastern section of British Columbia and parts of the prairie provinces of Alberta. Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The area is composed of sedimentary rock. It is an area of flat land with some rolling hills. The three chernozemic, or black earth, soils are the most important in this region. They account for nearly all of Canada¹s wheat production. The true chernozem, or black earth, is extremely productive and is found in an arc passing through Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary. To the south forming a more southerly arc passing through Regina, Saskatoon, and Lethbridge, and reflecting a somewhat drier climate of this region, are the dark brown soils. Brown soils predominate in the southern, semiarid parts of the interior plains. The Interior Plains have a middle-latitude steppe-type climate in the drier southern sections and a more humid and extreme continental type of climate elsewhere. Temperatures average about -20 degrees to -15 degrees C in long winters and 18 degrees to 20 degrees C in short summers. Precipitation is not very high here. Many areas receive less than 500 mm a year. Natural grasslands, or prairies, once extended across the southern part of the interior plains. These natural grasslands have been largely plowed under and replaced by field crops, such as; grain, and other mixed farming. The combination of the good soil conditions and climate conditions allows for the production of good crops.
The Cordilleran Region occupies 15.9% of all Canada and includes most of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory and the southwestern corner of Alberta. It is a complex mountain system composed of sedimentary rock and young fold mountains with jagged peaks. The mountains are approximately 800 km wide and they extend along the pacific coast. The three main subsections of the region are the eastern ranges, the western ranges and an intermontane area between the two. The eastern ranges include the Rocky Mountains in the south and the Mackenzie and Richardson Mountains in the north. The western ranges of the region include the St. Elias Mountains, the scenic Coast Mountains, and a partially submerged range that appears offshore; Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands. The intermontane section of the Cordilleran Region, located between the eastern and western ranges, is a series of wide, rolling tablelands, such as the Fraser and Kamloops plateaus, and short mountain ranges, such as the Cascade, Cariboo, Selkirk, Monashee, Purcell, Stikine, Skeena, and Hazelton mountains. The soils of the Cordilleran Region, as in all mountain areas, follow attitudinal and climatic zones and, where topography and climate are suitable support a variety of agricultural activity. Precipitation is quite heavy here where moisture-laden winds from the Pacific Ocean are forced to rise over the mountainous coastal regions and bring more than 5000 mm of rain a year in some areas. The third great forest zone is found here due to the humidity. It is a dense, tall-timber forest where Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar are the dominant trees.
Most of Canada¹s people live in the southern part of the country, in an elongated, discontinuous belt of settlement parallel to the U.S.-Canadian border. The most populated provinces are Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
During the last 75 years, the Canadian economy has been transformed from on based primarily on agricultural production and the export of agricultural products and raw materials to one based primarily on its manufacturing and service sectors, as well as a mining sector of continuing importance. Canada¹s economy reflects an affluent high-tech industrial society and resembles the United States, with whom it has close economic ties. This is one reason why a large percentage of the population live by the U.S.-Canadian border. Another reason is because a large number of the manufacturing plants are located in the southern section of Canada.
Canada is rich in natural resources. It is a world leader in value of mineral exports and produces and exports many of the mineral needed for modern industrial economies. It¹s soils which are especially rich in the three prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, are intensively utilized and make Canada one of the world¹s largest exporters of agricultural products. Forests cover much of the land, and Canada is the world¹s largest exporter of newsprint and a leading supplier of lumber, pulp, paper, and wood products.