The Canadian Shield 101

The Canadian Shield refers to the exposed portion of the continental crust underlying North America.

Emerald Lake, BC

Map & Land Span

The Canadian Shield (Areas in Red, Orange, and Yellow) is one of the largest landfrom regions in Canada. Spanning across The North West Territories, parts of Manitoba, parts of Ontario, Quebec, and many other regions.

Climate

The climate of the Canadian Shield varies. In the North, it is considerably cold, with winter recording an average temperature of -25 Degrees Celsius, while summer has an average temperature of 10 Degrees Celsius. This means that the window for growing vegetation (See Vegetation), is only about 60 days. This gives about 5.5 hours of sunlight in the winter, and 18.5 hours in summer.

The south records an average winter temperature of -8 Degrees Celsius in Winter, and 22 Degrees Celsius in the summer. The growing season in the south is considerably larger (See Vegetation), giving close to 120 days. The south gets 8.5 hours of sunlight during winter, and 15.5 hours in the summer.

The Canadian Shield receives on average around 200-300mm of rain in the summer, and 1200-1500mm of snow in the winter.

Keep in mind that these can vary across time as the Canadian Shield is a very large expanse of land and the weather and climate will always vary.

Vegetation & Wildlife

The plants and trees that grow in The Canadian Shield are different from those that grow in other parts of Canada. The most prominent vegetation in The Canadian Shield are trees, there are many different kinds of trees found there. The Central Canadian Shield forests are a taiga Eco-region of Canada. The south is a mixture of Birch, Aspen, Tamarack, Black and White Spruce, Hemlock, Pine, and Balsam Trees. These prove for a very beautiful sight in full bloom (See Human Activities), and with the changing colors that fall brings. The southern you get, the more taller and denser the forests become.

Jacques-Cartier National Park, Quebec

The northern regions tend to stray away from the forestry and lead into the scenic rocky mountains.

Ringrose Peak, Lake O'Hara, BC

The Canadian Shield has many animals such as Moose, Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Foxes, Beavers, different types of rodents, Wood Buffalo, Woodland Caribou, Weasels, and Hares. There is also an abundance of birds, including The Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle, and Noreal Owl. As The Canadian Shield offers an abundance of water, food, and adequate shelter, many animals take up home here. Most animals only live here in the summer months, due to continuous summer sunshine and the long, dark winter. Two herds of caribou, the Bluenose Herd and the Bathurst Herd, migrate through the Canadian Shield. There is also a significant amount of muskox that are recovering from over-hunting.

Soil

The Canadian Shield forms the geological core for the North American continent and is only covered by a small layer of soil.

The Canadian Shield is U-shaped, but almost semi-circular, which yields an appearance of a warrior's shield, and is a subsection of the Laurentia craton signifying the area of greatest glacial impact (scraping down to bare rock) creating the thin soils.

During the Pleistocene Epoch, continental ice sheets depressed the land surface, scooped out thousands of lake basins, and carried away much of the region's soil.

The current surface expression of the Shield is one of very thin soil lying on top of the bedrock, with many bare outcrops. This arrangement was caused by severe glaciation during the ice age, which covered the Shield and scraped the rock clean.

The lowlands of the Canadian Shield have a very dense soil that is not suitable for forestation, but it also contains many marshes and bogs. The rest of the region has coarse soil that does not retain moisture well and is frozen with permafrost year round.

Canadian Shield geography in the Flin Flon, Manitoba region. The lake in the background is Big Island Lake.

Geology

The Canadian Shield is a large exposed are of igneous and metamorphic rocks that form the ancient core of the North American continent, covered by a thin layer of soil. It is an area of mostly igneous rock due to it's long history of volcanic activity. Mining here is very prevalent.

Some of Canada's oldest rocks are found in The Canadian Shield, east of Great Bear Lake.

Today, geologists generally use the word “terrane” instead of province, and understand the Shield to be made up of pieces of the Earth’s crust which, through the process of plate tectonics, began colliding together more than 3 billion years ago

Human Activities

Occupations

There are many interesting occupations found in the Canadian Shield region. Some of the major occupations are forestry, making roads and railways, oil and gas, pulp and paper and mining tar. These occupations provide people with roads and railways, gas for their cars, and money to purchase homes and food.

Sports and Recreation

The Canadian Shield region offers a variety of sport and recreational activities. Sporting and recreational activities include fishing, hunting, hiking, and snowmobiling. These are popular activities in this region because there are lots of animals in this region and there is lots of water and snow in the winter.

People

Many of the people live in small communities. One of the larger communities is Fort Chipewyan. Some of the larger cultural groups include Canadian, English, and Natives. There are a variety of cultural groups that live in this region.

Risk of Climate Change

Climate change is altering the pattern of life on the planet, causing widespread species extinction, migration and behaviour changes.

A changing climate forces plants and animals to migrate in order to survive. However, research has shown that most plant species are able to migrate at only 1/10th of the speed required to keep up with human-induced climate change.

To make matters worse, human settlements and infrastructure have already subdivided ecosystem habitat into isolated patches. Climate change will make many of these patches uninhabitable for the species that live there. Northern countries like Canada are experiencing some of the most serious impacts on biodiversity:

  • Canada's increasingly dry Northern boreal forests, stretching across the Canadian Shield, have seen burns escalate from one-million hectares to three-million in the last decade.
  • Female caribou migrate in spring to small pockets of vegetation where they feed and raise their calves. But for the past decade, spring has come so early that by the time the caribou reach the coastal plain, their principal food plant has already gone to seed.
  • A receding Arctic icecap and earlier-than-normal breakup of sea ice has affected polar bears, which depend on sea ice to hunt seals. Recent studies shows polar bears in some regions are down a third in body weight. The latest generation of seals have also been found to be much thinner than usual.

One study looked at whether species can migrate quickly enough to survive in a rapidly changing climate. It found that Canada is likely to be one of the hardest hit(PDF) because of its northern location, and that more than 45 per cent of Canada's habitat could be lost by the end of this century, resulting in a 20 per cent loss of species in vulnerable ecosystems, such as the Arctic and boreal forests.

Natural Disasters

The Canadian Shield receives little to no natural disasters. The little amount of natural disasters it receives are usually mini earthquakes, tsunamis, and sometimes volcanoes.

The remoteness of The Canadian Shield makes the potential of natural disasters a very low possibility. Most of the natural disasters occurring there are aftermaths of tsunamis or earthquakes from other regions or the coast, but at a very small and non dangerous rate.

By Hasan & Ahmed

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