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Ecological Framework of Canada
Ecoregions of Canada


This ecoregion is located in the Selwyn and southern Mackenzie mountains that span the Yukon-Northwest Territories border. For the most part this is a rugged mountain wilderness, a northern extension of the Rocky Mountains. The highest mountains found in the Northwest Territories occur in this ecoregion. Climatic conditions vary with elevation. The mean annual temperature for major valley systems is approximately -4.5°C with a summer mean of 9.5°C and a winter mean of -19.5°C. Mean annual precipitation is highly variable ranging from 600 mm at lower elevation on the perimeter of the ecoregion up to 750 mm at high elevation. The ecoregion is characterized by alpine tundra at upper elevations and by subalpine open woodland vegetation at lower elevations. Alpine vegetation consists of crustose lichens, mountain avens, dwarf willow, and ericaceous shrubs; sedge and cottongrass are associated with wetter sites. Barren talus slopes are common. Subalpine vegetation consists of discontinuous open stands of stunted white spruce, and occasional alpine fir and lodgepole pine, in a matrix of willow, dwarf birch, and northern Labrador tea with a ground cover of moss and lichen. Sedge, cottongrass, and mosses occur in wet sites. The ecoregion includes the Selwyn Mountains and a small portion of the southern Backbone Ranges of the Mackenzie Mountains in its easternmost section. The Selwyn Mountains, which have been extensively glaciated, are composed of Palaeozoic and Proterozoic strata intruded by granitic stocks. They are divided into several ranges by broad, northwesterly-trending valleys. Some contain alpine and valley glaciers. Mount Keele, at 2950 m asl, is the most outstanding peak. Local alpine glaciers exist in the highest ranges of this ecoregion. Bare rock outcrops and rubble are common at higher elevation. Permafrost is extensive but discontinuous in the western part and continuous with low ice content in the eastern part of the ecoregion. Dystric and Eutric Brunisols on alluvial, fluvioglacial, and morainal veneers and blankets are dominant in the region. Static and Turbic Cryosols with Dystric Brunisols or Regosols are developed on upper-elevation, steeply-sloping colluvium. Characteristic wildlife includes caribou, grizzly and black bear, Dall's sheep, moose, beaver, fox, wolf, hare, raven, rock and willow ptarmigan, and bald and golden eagle. Climate and resources provide opportunities for hunting and trapping of wildlife, ecotourism, and mineral exploration. There are no major permanent settlements in the ecoregion. The population of the ecoregion is approximately 50.

This ecoregion is part of the Taiga Cordillera ecozone.