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Taiga Shield Ecozone+ Evidence for Key Findings Summary

Ecozone+ Basics

The Taiga Shield extends from the Northwest Territories to Labrador on both sides of Hudson Bay. It is a lightly-populated expanse of open forest, shrubland, tundra, and wetlands overlying the Precambrian Shield. The major localized stressor is hydroelectric development, principally on the eastern side of Hudson Bay, though there is also mining exploration and development across the ecozone+. Climate change affects the entire ecozone+.

Table 1: Taiga Shield ecozone+ overview
Area1,346,430 km2 (14% of Canada)
TopographyOpen forest dominated by small conifers, thinning to shrubland and tundra as latitude increases (Figure 2) About 13% covered by wetlands Footnote18

The climate is very different east and west of Hudson Bay, with the west being colder and drier:Footnote19

  • West: -8oC annual mean temperaturewith 200-500 mm of precipitation
  • East: 0oC annual mean temperaturewith 500-800 mm of precipitation
River basins

West of Hudson Bay, drains to:

  • Arctic Ocean via the Coppermine basin and the Mackenzie River basin
  • Hudson Bay via the Thelon, Dubawnt and other systems East of Hudson Bay drains to:
  • James and Hudson bays via the La Grande River and other systems
  • Ungava Bay
  • Atlantic Ocean
GeologyUnderlain by Precambrian Shield,with 75% of land surface covered by glacial till Most of the ecozone+is 100-600 m above sea level
PermafrostRegions of continuous and discontinuous permafrost west of Hudson Bay Sporadic permafrost through most of the Taiga Shield east of Hudson Bay
SettlementSparsely populated (42,000 in 2006), with a number of small communities (Figure 3) The largest community is Yellowknife, NT (20,000 in 2006) About 60% of population is Aboriginal
EconomyWildlife, fishing, and fur trade are important to the wage and non-wage economies of many small communities Mining, mineral exploration, hydroelectric development, and transportation, along with provision of government services, are mainstays of the wage economy
DevelopmentActive mining exploration and development for base metals, gold, diamonds Hydroelectric projects, current and projected, especially east of Hudson Bay

Jurisdictions: The Taiga Shield ecozone+ extends across the northern parts of five provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the northeast corner of Alberta) and two territories (southern Nunavut and a substantial part of the Northwest Territories). About 60% of the population is Aboriginal: Algonquin-based Aboriginal peoples in the east (James Bay Cree, Cree, Innu, and the Labrador Inuit), and Athapaskan-based groups (Inuit, Sahtu Dene, Akaitcho, and Tlicho) and Métis in the west. Aboriginal government structures and powers vary widely across the region, depending on the status of land claims settlements.

East-west split: The Taiga Shield ecozone+ is divided into eastern and western sections by Hudson Bay. While both parts share many characteristics, the wide geographic separation, combined with differing climatic and jurisdictional influences, means they must often be discussed separately.

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Figure 2: Major land cover classes in the Taiga Shield Ecozone+, 2005.
Land areas in urban, agricultural and snow/ice/glacier categories are very small (<0.01%) and there is no grassland. The red, "disturbed" areas are recent burn scars.
Source: Ahern et al., 2011Footnote16
Long Description for Figure 2.

This graphic depicts a map and stacked bar graph of land cover classification in the eastern and western sections of the Taiga Shield ecozone+. This ecozone+ is dominated by forest (44%) along the southern half of both the eastern and western sections, with shrubland (9%) and fire scars (8%) interspersed within the forested areas, although fire scars are more prevalent in the western section of the ecozone+. Along the northern edge of the ecozone+, low vegetation and barren ground predominates (39%), especially in the eastern Taiga Shield.

Figure 3: Human population of the Taiga Shield Ecozone+, 1971 to 2006.
Source: Environment Canada, 2009Footnote20
Long Description for Figure 3.

This bar graph depicts the following information:

YearNumber of people

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Footnote 16

Ahern, F., Frisk, J., Latifovic, R. and Pouliot, D. 2011. Monitoring ecosystems remotely: a selection of trends measured from satellite observations of Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 17. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.

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Footnote 18

Wiken, E., Moore, H. and Latsch, C. 2004. Peatland and wetland protected areas in Canada. Wildlife Habitat Canada Science Report. Wildlife Habitat Canada. Ottawa, ON. 18 p.

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Footnote 19

Peckham, S.D., Ahl, D.E., Serbin, S.P. and Gower, S.T. 2008. Fire-induced changes in green-up and leaf maturity of the Canadian boreal forest. Remote Sensing of Environment112:3594-3603.

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Footnote 20

Environment Canada. 2009. Unpublished analysis of population data by Ecozone+ from: Statistics Canada Human Activity and the Environment Series, 1971-2006. Community profile data was used to make adjustments due to differences in the ecozone/Ecozone+ boundary.

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