Within Labrador, this ecozone occupies the northernmost section. It consists of
vast mountain chain or "cordillera" which runs along the northeastern flank of
Baffin Island, northward over eastern Devon Island and Ellesmere Island as far as
Bache Peninsula and southward as far as the Torngat Mountains in Labrador. This
chain is the only major mountainous range in Canada outside the western cordillera.
Huge polar ice fields and alpine glaciers can be found in this ecozone.
The climate is extremely cold and dry in the north, while it is somewhat milder and
more humid in the southernmost portions of the ecozone. The mean annual temperature
in northern Labrador is approximately -6°C. The mean summer temperature ranges from
-2°C to 6°C. Summers are short and cool. The mean winter temperature is
around -16°C in northern Labrador, and the mean annual precipitation is over 600 mm.
The higher elevations are largely devoid of plant cover, other than lichens and some
mosses, due to the cold temperatures, high winds, and lack of soil cover. The coastal
margins and lower mountain slopes have some vegetative cover, consisting mainly of
herbaceous tundra communities in the north and shrub communities in the south.
Mountains in this ecozone may reach more than 2000 m above sea level (asl). Large ice
fields and valley glaciers cover many of the rugged mountains. The ranges and ridges
are cut by many steep-walled valleys and fjords with glaciers. U-shaped valleys have
been formed by glaciers, and deep fjords extend many kilometres inland. More than
three-quarters of the landscape is ice or exposed bedrock. Permafrost is, for the
most part, continuous.
Animals such as the arctic hare, arctic fox, arctic wolf, ermine, the collared
lemming are found in this ecozone. Polar bears use some coastal areas for
denning purposes. The animals are limited in numbers. There are restricted to the
more sheltered areas, and sites where plants are able to flourish. Typical marine
animals include ringed and bearded seal, walrus, whale, and narwhal. Seabirds are
abundant in the warmer coastal margins, including the snow bunting, northern fulmar,
thick-billed murre, kittiwake, and little ringed plover.
This ecozone is the most sparsely populated in Canada. Human activity is very limited.
Some native subsistence hunting and fishing are carried out near settlements along the
coast. There are a few administrative and service jobs in this ecoregion.
©2002, Trevor Bell