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Boreal Plains  
Taiga Cordillera  
Map of the Prairies ecozone  

Location | Climate | Geology and geography | Flora and fauna | Humans | Images

The Prairies cover the south of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Prairies are the northernmost branch of the Great Plains of North America and the most altered of the ecozones. The mountains to the west block much of the precipitation that would otherwise fall. That and the high winds make this ecozone very dry, although precipitation does generally increase towards the east. Temperatures are extreme due to the lack of access to the ocean's buffering. Winter temperatures average -10ºC and summers average 15ºC.

Geology and Geography
Canola fields in the PrairiesGlaciation has left its mark on the Prairies, flattening the landscape and leaving deposits from inland seas left behind by melting glaciers. These deposits are now the fertile plains that largely define the Breadbasket of Canada. Huge numbers of small temporary wetlands form in years with high precipitation. Gas and oil is plentiful in the region.

Flora and Fauna
Almost 95% of the Prairies have been converted into farmland, with predictable effects on the original plant populations. Trees and shrubs are most commonly found in the eastern region.
Trees found in the Prairies include white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir, tamarack, water birch, Bebb willow, peachleaf willow, wolf willow, lodgepole pine, box elder, choke cherry, black cottonwood, eastern cottonwood, bur oak, trembling aspen, and balsam poplar. Just a few of the other plants that grow here are spear grass, wheat, blue grama grass, sagebrush, yellow cactus, prickly pear, buckbrush, chokecherry, Saskatoon berry bush, alkali grass, wild barley, red sampire, sea blite, Parry oat grass, June grass, yellow bean, sticky geranium, bedstraw, chickweed, needle grass, thread grass, snowberry, American silverberry, rose, silverberry, dryland sedge, black hawthorn, greasewood, plains larkspur , death camas, wild lupine, smooth aster, prairie sedge, and cattail .

The widespread alteration of the natural habitat has resulted in diminished populations and ranges of many animals, and the Prairies contain a disproportionate number of threatened and endangered species.

The only large carnivore in the Prairies is the black bear. Large herbivores include whitetail deer (a recent invader), mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, and moose. Small carnivores include coyote, badger, red fox, longtail weasel, mink, river otter, black-footed ferret, and striped skunk. Rodents are numerous, such as the black-tailed prairie dog, white-tailed jack rabbit, snowshoe hare, Richardson’s ground squirrel, Franklin’s ground squirrel, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, least chipmunk,
northern pocket gopher, olive-backed pocket mouse, Ord's kangaroo rat, white-footed mouse and beaver.

Some of the birds of prey are the
ferruginous hawk, red-tailed hawk, Swainson’s hawk, burrowing owl, northern saw-whet owl, short-eared owl, long-eared owl, and turkey vulture. Songbirds include black-billed magpie, northern oriole, Audubon’s warbler, grasshopper sparrow, lark sparrow, ruby-throated hummingbird, cedar waxwing, lark bunting, chestnut-collared longspur, and black-billed cuckoo. Birds of the forest that are found here include ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, northern flicker, downy woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, and western meadowlark. Some of the waterfowl found here are the American avocet, great blue heron, snow goose, Canada goose, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, mallard, gadwall, redhead, western grebe, lesser scaup, ring-necked duck, canvasback, Eskimo curlew, piping plover, and whooping crane.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Among the amphibians that can be found here are the northern leopard frog, striped chorus frog, plains spadefoot, American toad, great plains toad, and tiger salamander. The area has several species of snakes and lizards, including the plains garter snake, gopher snake, western rattlesnake, western terrestrial garter snake, short-horned lizard, and prairie skink.

Predatory fish in the Prairie waterways include northern pike, carp, and sauger. They prey on such fish as the lake whitefish, goldeye, lake chub, brassy minnow, emerald shiner and yellow perch.

Just a few of the insects are the German cockroach, boreal spittlebug, silver-spotted skipper, spring azure, American copper, monarch butterfly, mourning cloak, eastern black swallowtail, migratory grasshopper, and pallid-winged grasshopper.

Three of the mollusc species in the Prairies are the valve snail, umbilicate promenetus, and globular pea clam.

The Prairies are the most altered of the ecozones. Agriculture covers almost all of the land, and almost none of the original ecosystems are left aside from tiny remnants. Despite the huge amounts of land given over to farming, farmers comprise less than 10% of the four million people, and 80% of the population lives in urban areas. Mining and services are the employers of most of the population.

Canola field
Drumheller badlands
South Saskatchewan river
Old Man river
Near Camrose, Alberta


Boreal PlainsTaiga Cordillera

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