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Land and Resources

pingos, black prairie, natural barriers, American border, hydroelectric power

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Canada’s physical characteristics have heavily influenced the course of its development. It is a very large country (only Russia is larger) composed of several distinct regions that are often separated from each other by natural barriers. Canada has an abundance of natural resources, such as forests, minerals, fish, and hydroelectric power. These resources have encouraged Canadians to focus their economic development on the export of raw materials. Conservation of these resources has become a national priority.

Canada is a country of difficult terrain; much of its area is underwater, rocky, marshy, mountainous, or otherwise uninhabitable. Settlement has therefore been concentrated in the areas that are more level and have the better soils. The northern climate, with its long winters, has encouraged the population to settle in the south, where agricultural and living conditions are most favorable. The vast majority of Canadians live within 320 km (200 mi) of the American border.


Canada’s largest area of high-quality farmland is a formation of rich dark brown and black prairie, or grassland, soils that run from southern Manitoba west across Saskatchewan and into Alberta. The gray-brown soil of the St. Lawrence valley and the Great Lakes is also good farmland. Only about 5 percent of Canada’s land is suitable for raising crops, however; the remainder is too mountainous, rocky, wet, or infertile.

Large areas of Canada are covered by boggy peat that is characteristic of the tundra and adjoining forest areas. This land is generally infertile and frequently mossy. In the Arctic regions, most of the soil is classified as permafrost, meaning that at least 80 percent of the ground is permanently frozen. The freeze-thaw action that occurs in the more southern parts of the permafrost zone frequently causes so-called patterned ground features, such as polygonal rings of stones, ice wedges, and pingos (ice domes).

Article key phrases:

pingos, black prairie, natural barriers, American border, hydroelectric power, grassland, Arctic regions, physical characteristics, mossy, tundra, living conditions, Great Lakes, southern parts, remainder, soils, Canadians, forests, characteristic, Saskatchewan, Russia, minerals, fish, Settlement, Canada, soil, Alberta, population, economic development, land, Conservation, course, percent, level, areas

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