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GEO2010 Chapter 8 Notes.docx

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Geography 2010A/B
Suzanne Greaves

Chapter 8: Western Canada Western Canada Within Canada  Situated in the vast western interior of North America  Two physiographic regions dominate the landscape – Interior Plains where agriculture takes place and Canadian Shield noted for mining and logging  Water is a scarce resource and the region’s dry continental climate sometimes results in a water deficit  crop failure  Distance to world market has proven to be a major stumbling block to the region’s economic development because of its need to export its surplus energy, food, and mineral resources  Important measure of its economic well-being is Western Canada’s low unemployment rate  Evapotranspiration: part of the water cycle, sum of evaporation of water from the soil to the air and the transpiration of water from plants and its subsequent loss as vapour  Led by Alberta, economic gains in this region are outstripping Ontario and Quebec  While percentage population growth has been greater than that in Quebec over the past decade  Vast majority live in the regional core, an area of major cities / towns / villages located in the southern half of this region Western Canada’s Physical Geography  In the Interior Plains, sedimentary rocks contain valuable deposits of fossil fuels  By value, the 4 leading mineral resources are oil, gas, coal and potash  Western Sedimentary Basin:  Athabasca Tar Sands: largest reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and largest of 3 major oil sands deposits in Alberta (oil sands)  Upgrader: processing plant that breaks large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones by increasing H:C ratio, product is supplied to refineries  In the Canadian Shield, rocky terrain makes cultivation virtually impossible  Climate is characterized by cold / dry winters and hot / dry summers  During the winter, Arctic conditions in the Prairies placing region in an Artic deep freeze  Hot dry summer weather results from the northward migration of hot / dry air masses from the Southwest US  Annual precipitation is among the lowest in all regions except the North o Distance from the Pacific Ocean reduces the opportunity of moist Pacific air masses to reach Western Canada o Orographic Uplift: air forced to rise and cool over mountains, if cooling is sufficient water vapour condenses into clouds  Chinooks: dry, warm, downslope wind in the lee of a mountain range, dropped most of its moisture of windward slopes  Alberta Clippers: low pressure system that begins when warm / moist winds from the Pacific Ocean come into contact with the Rocky Mountains and then the winds form a Chinook in southern Alberta, winter storms occur over the Canadian prairies when it becomes entangled with cold Artic air masses  Palliser’s Triangle: area of short-grass natural vegetation in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, northern extension of Great American Desert and unsuitable for agricultural settlement  Natural vegetation and the soil are largely determined by the evapotranspiration rate  Southern portion has two natural vegetation zones (parkland and grassland) and three chernozemic soil zones (black, dark brown, and brown)  Tall-grass natural vegetation zone and parkland to its north make up area known as the Fertile Belt where farming has been more successful  South of this fertile arc is the area of short-grass natural vegetation and brown chernozemic soils known as the Dry Belt Environmental Challenges  Alberta is benefiting from extraction of their oil sands, the mining operation poses 3 major environmental challenges o Release of GHG to atmosphere is among largest in Canada o Open-pit mining has created a scarred industrial landscape and reclamation process will take time and money o Separating the oil from bitumen requires large amounts of water and resulting waste product is deposited into large toxic tailing ponds  The tailing ponds are used to store the vast quantity of non-renewable water o Since these toxic waters cannot be released into local waters, must be stored in ponds for an indefinite time o Amount of toxic waters is increasing every day o Leakage from ponds have a negative effect  Native communities downstream from tar sands development have experienced health consequences  Tailings: waste / residue from a mining operation  Constant threat of spring floods in Red River Valley  Another challenge is the need to remove the radioactive wastes from the abandoned uranium mines near Lake Athabasca before it seeps into lake  Intensive cattle and hog facilities pose a serious challenge to the environment  Waste from cattle and hogs provide a serious threat to water resources through runoff and infiltration Western Canada’s Historical Geography  Before 1870, when Canada was ceded these lands by the British government, the HBC used this vast territory exclusively for the fur trade  In 1856, the British government and Royal Geographical Society sponsored an expedition into the Canadian West to determine suitability of the Canadian West for agricultural settlement  Great American Deseth: treeless Great Plains as described by American explorers in the 19 century  In 1869, Canada’s new government sent surveyors in the Red River Settlement to prepare a land registry system for the expected influx of settlers  Dominion Land Survey: survey method divided Western Canada into one- square-mile sections to allow ownership of specific land units by homesteaders  Homesteader: settler who obtained land, settlers paid $10 for a quarter section in Western Canada  Key attraction for homesteaders in Western Canada was free land but many settlers were ill-prepared for the harsh continental climate and absence of forests o Arable land in Western Canada lies much further north o Hence, a shorter growing season in the Canadian Prairies affects selection of crops and chances of a successful harvest o Disadvantage of short growing season, grasshoppers, hail, untimely frosts  With the virtual extinction of the buffalo, the Plains Indians could no longer support themselves and were forced to sign treaties and live on reserves  Arrival of land surveyors and settlers led the Metis to mount the Red River Rebellion in 1869  Ottawa sent troops to exert Canada’s control over the new province and settlers began to pour into Manitoba changing demographic balance of power  Treaties with Ottawa offered the Indians prospects for survival and time to find a place in a new economy but treaties also made them wards of the Crown  Living on reserves, Indians were isolated from the evolving Canadian society and became increasingly dependent on federal government  Without the Canadian Pacific Railway, Ottawa feared that the West would be lost to the Americans  Settling of Western Canada marks one of the world’s great migrations and the transformation of the Prairies into an agricultural resource frontier o First wave of homesteaders came from Ontario, Great Britain, and US o Second wave came from continental Europe  Canadian government initiated an aggressive campaign to lure more settlers to Canadian West  Large influx of primarily non-English-speaking immigrants lead to a quite different cultural makeup in Western Canada from that in Central Canada  Isolated still posed a problem for many, land survey system encouraged a dispersed rural population  By early 20 century, a prairie agricultural economy had replaced the Aboriginal hunting one but this commercial economy and its transplanted Euro-Canadians faced severe geographic challenges o Distance to market, high cost of shipping grain long distances o Climate – drought, hail, and frost threatened crops o Short growing season which leaves crops vulnerable to frost damage  Summer Fallow: farming practice of leaving land idle for a year or more to accumulate sufficient soil moisture to produce a crop / restore soil fertility  Shift in the farm economy from a labour-intensive operation to a capital- intensive one  Introduction of machinery changed the way farms were run and reduced the need for farm labour o Further technological changes continued to affect the size of the farm labour force and size of the farms o Consolidating farms into larger and larger units saw the number of farms decline while size of farms increased  Mechanization of agriculture t
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