Arctic Cordillera Ecozone

Within Labrador, this ecozone occupies the northernmost section. It consists of a 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 and the collared lemming are found in this ecozone. Polar bears use some coastal areas for denning purposes. The animals are limited in numbers. They 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.

Human Activity

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.

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