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Hudson Plains Ecozone+ Evidence for key findings summary


Ecozone+ Basics

The Hudson Plains Ecozone+ (Figure 1) is a low-lying northern region that has been little altered by human activities; however, it is increasingly under threat from climate change and pressure for new development. Its extensive wetlands provide critical habitat for a variety of birds and its peatlands also play an important global role in carbon storage. Species of national conservation concern such as polar bear, woodland caribou, wolverine, and lake sturgeon find an important refuge there. This ecozone+ has many critical information gaps. Table 1provides an overview of the main features of the ecozone+.

Table 1. Hudson Plains Ecozone+ overview.
Area352,980 km²
  • Very low grade 0.5 m/km rise from the ocean, with little relief; maximum elevations 130 m near the Nelson River in Manitoba and 240 m east of James Bay
  • Broad, poorly drained plains, interrupted by incised valleys along major rivers, a low bedrock ridge at Churchill, Manitoba and the Sutton Ridges (a 50 km long, 120 m high cuesta) southwest of Cape Henrietta Maria, Ontario
  • Extensive wetlands and numerous small lakes and ponds
  • Maritime boreal climate, influenced significantly by Hudson and James bays, especially seasonal sea ice cover
  • Mean annual air temperatures vary from -7°C at Churchill, Manitoba to -1°C at Moosonee, Ontario; precipitation varies from 430 mm to 680 mm correspondingly
River basins
  • Churchill, Nelson, Hayes, Severn, and Winisk rivers flowing into Hudson Bay
  • Attawapiskat, Albany, Moose, Harricana, Nottaway, Rupert, and Eastmain rivers flowing into James Bay
  • Former Tyrell Sea bottom, formed by retreat of Laurentide Ice Sheet; land is still rebounding at one of the highest rates in North America
  • Bedrock mostly Paleozoic limestone and dolomite; glacial and postglacial deposits up to 80 m thick
  • Surface sediments largely fine-grained calcareous deposits overlain by thin blankets of marine sand or thicker sandy deposits forming beach ridges
  • Sea ice in Hudson and James bays cools the climate and contributes to the occurrence of the most southern continuous permafrost in North America
  • Permafrost grades from continuous along the Hudson Bay coast; to discontinuous towards the south and inland; to isolated patches around James Bay in the south Permafrost is absent in the most southern reaches of the ecozone+ away from the coast
  • Moosonee and Moose Factory, both in Ontario, were the largest communities in 2006 (last census year), with estimated populations of 2,006 and 2,700, respectively
  • Mixed traditional (especially hunting and fishing) and wage-based economies, with high unemployment rates in the wage economy
  • Transportation, government services, hydroelectricity, and tourism (the latter principally at Churchill, Manitoba and Moosonee-Moose Factory, Ontario), with mining increasing in importance
  • Economic development is being increasingly explored and promoted
  • Access into the ecozone+ is limited to sea, air, two railway lines, and one all-season road that connects Eastmain and Waskaganish in Quebec with the highway system in the south; communities within the ecozone+ are seasonally connected by winter roads
  • Resource developments mostly in the hydroelectric sector but a diamond mine was established near Attawapiskat, Ontario in 2006 (opened 2008) and recent discovery of world-class chromite deposits further inland portends major mining-related infrastructure
  • Very little forestry or agriculture; limited subsoil asset extraction (except the one mine)
National/global significance
  • Largest wetland complex in Canada and third largest in the world, making this ecozone+ of hemispheric importance to migratory birds
  • Largest peat basin in Canada and the second largest in northern latitudes (>40-50°), making this ecozone+ globally important for carbon storage
  • Contains two designated Wetlands of International Importance: Polar Bear Provincial Park and Southern James Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (Moose River and Hannah Bay)
  • Part of one of the largest intact tracts of forest remaining in Canada and the world

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Jurisdictions: Most of the Hudson Plains Ecozone+ lies in northern Ontario (Figure 1). From its core in Ontario, the ecozone+ extends west along the Hudson Bay coast to the Churchill area in northern Manitoba and east into the western part of coastal Quebec. The few islands in James Bay that are part of this terrestrial ecozone+ are jurisdictionally part of Nunavut. Akimiski Island is the largest of these islands and it is located just off the western coast of James Bay.

Population: The Hudson Plains Ecozone+ is home to an estimated 14,000 residents, concentrated in 11 communities at a density of about one person per 24 km².Reference 12, Reference 13 Most of these communities are coastal villages located near the mouths of major rivers (estuaries) (Figure 1) and residents are primarily of Aboriginal descent, principally Cree and Metis.Reference 14


Reference 12

Corston, K. and McComb, N. 2008. Coastal community profiles. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Cochrane District, ON. 28 p.

Return to reference 12 referrer

Reference 13

Statistics Canada. 2010. Community profiles [online]. Statistics Canada. (last accessed December, 2010).

Return to reference 13 referrer

Reference 14

Abraham, K.F. and Keddy, C.J. 2005. The Hudson Bay Lowland: a unique wetland legacy. In The world's largest wetlands: ecology and conservation. Edited by Fraser, L.H. and Keddy, P.A. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY. pp. 118-148.

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