The wild and beautiful Taiga Cordillera is a region largely undisturbed by glaciers. This ecozone is a continuation of the Rocky Mountain system; it covers almost the whole northern half of the Yukon Territory and the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories.


Landform Region

The Taiga Cordillera is characterized by steep mountainous topography with repetitive, sharp eroded ridges and narrow valleys. Rolling foothills and plateaus, as well as highlands and wetlands are common in the northwest. Tundra is found above the tree line in the northern ecozone, so only smaller plants are found there.

Rocks and Minerals

Mountains of modest relief are formed of sedimentary rock

Vegetation and Soil

Alpine tundra is common in areas of high elevations and upland plateaus and is characterized by lichens, mosses and sedges. More precipitation is received on the western-facing slopes than the eastern facing slopes, while the southern slopes are warmer, brighter and drier than northern facing slopes. The subalpine transition zone is found midway down the slopes; alpine fir and a dense lower zone of willow and shrub birch dominate. The lower flanks of the mountains contain the montane zone. Black spruce and lodgepole pine are common here. Isolated stands of deciduous trees include trembling aspen and paper birch. In the sheltered areas of the lowland zone, dense spruce forests and riverside communities of balsam poplar thrive. Marshes and other wetlands are also common. The soil of the taiga is similar to that of the tundra's. Because of the harsh temperatures during the winter, some parts of the taiga have permafrost, or a permanently frozen layer of soil. Water from precipitation and melting snow in warmer seasons cannot seep through the permafrost, so the taiga ground remains soft and damp in some parts. The soil that does form, has a very high acid content. The acid in conifer needles is released into the soil as they decompose. The soil is very infertile and very few plants can grow.

Climate and Climograph

The climate is generally cold and dry since mountains block much of the precipitation. Winters are long and dark (–22C average temperature) and summers are short and cool (8C average temperature). Annual, average temperatures vary from –10C in the north to –4.5C in the south. Precipitation in this ecozone ranges from less than 300 mm in the north, to, in excess of 700 mm in the southeast. Snow and ice cover last from six to eight months a year.

Trivia and Fun Facts

The Taiga Cordillera contains the northernmost of the Rocky mountains in Canada and some of its highest waterfalls, deepest canyons and wildest rivers.
Ivvavik, Nahanni (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Vuntut National Parks are located here.
Dall’s Sheep, woodland and barren-ground caribou, moose and mountain goat are large herbivores found here. Large carnivores include black bears, grizzly bears, lynx, and wolves. Wolverine, coyote and fox prey on arctic ground squirrel, beaver, brown lemming and American pika.
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Test Questions

1. Name three types of vegetation zones that are most abundant in this ecozone and give specific examples.
2. Give brief description of landforms in Taiga Cordillera.
3. Describe seasons in Taiga Cordillera ecozone.
4. T/F Soil is rich and fertile in the Taiga Cordillera.
5. T/F Summers are short, dry and cool.


Natural Resources Canada www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca

McGill University Geography www.canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca
Parks Canada **www.pc.gc.ca**
Clark, Bruce. Making connections Canada’s geography. Toronto: Pearson Education, 2006.

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