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  Home>> Natural Heritage>> Natural History>> Natural Regions

Natural Regions

Peace River SubregionThere are six "Natural Regions" in Alberta: the Canadian Shield , the Boreal Forest, the Foothills, the Rocky Mountains, the Parkland, and the Grassland. Natural Regions are areas of land characterized by their animal and plant life.

The Boreal Forest Natural Region is the largest in Alberta. It consists of broad lowland plains and extensive hill systems, and may also be referred to as the Coniferous Forest or the Taiga. The landscape is covered almost entirely by trees, with aspen and balsam poplar dominating the evergreens.

A subtle mosaic of aspen woodlands, fescue grasslands, shrub lands and wetlands make up the Parkland Region. Situated on the gently rolling landscape in central Alberta, it is the most densely populated region in the province.

The Grassland Natural Region occupies a broad area of southern Alberta and extends west to the Rocky Mountains and north to the southern edge of the Parkland Natural Region in central Alberta. The region is a flat to gently rolling plain with a few major hill systems.

The Canadian Shield makes up nearly half of Canada's total area and is composed of Precambrian rocks—ancient, rounded rocks that form the nucleus of most of North America. The Shield stretches into the very northeast corner of Alberta. Numerous bare areas of rock, abundant angular lakes, marshy depressions, and a highly disorganized drainage system characterize the Canadian Shield region of the province. Jack pine forests cover isolated spots of the region with a unique undergrowth of pale reindeer lichens, dusty green sage and bearberry.

Town of Banff

Most Albertans are familiar with the Upper and Lower Foothill regions of their province adjacent to the Rocky Mountains, which together with the Rockies, are commonly referred to as the Eastern Slopes. Comprised of flat-topped hills that rise 300 to 600 metres above the surrounding lowlands, the Foothills are a region of majestic beauty. The Foothill region however, also covers a large area northwest of the town of Peace River, extending from the Eastern Slopes northeast to the Swan Hills.

The Rocky Mountain region of Alberta covers over half of the province's western border. Largely due to the width and variety of the mountain terrain, the Rocky Mountain Natural Region includes a series of topographically diverse conditions that produce a unique association of plants and animals, many not found anywhere else in the province.

Each Natural Region comprises several subregions. Subregions are distinguished by differences in climate, soils and vegetation.

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