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Ecological Framework of Canada
Ecoregions of Canada


This ecoregion covers the Rocky Mountains of Alberta incorporating the eastern flanks of the Continental Ranges. The major peaks on the continental divide cluster around the Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains. Southward, the mountains are generally lower. The mean annual temperature for the ecoregion varies from north the south. Typical values for the mean annual temperature for major valley systems is approximately 2.5°C. Mean summer temperature is 12°C and the winter mean is -7.5°C. The mean annual precipitation ranges 600-800 mm increasing with elevation from east to west. Climatic conditions in the major valleys are marked by warm, dry summers and mild, snowy winters. Subalpine summers are cool, showery, and prone to early frosts. Winters are cold and snowy. The ecoregion is predominantly composed of subalpine and alpine ecosystems, characterized by mixed forests of lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and alpine fir. In addition, stands of Douglas-fir intermixed with trembling aspen and grassland ecosystems occur on the warmest, driest sites in the major valley systems of the Bow, Saskatchewan, and Athabasca rivers. At upper elevations, usually between 1600 and 2100 m asl, open stands of alpine fir are found. Limber pine can be found on rock outcrops. The alpine vegetation is characterized by low-growing heather with sedges and mountain avens occurring on warmer sites. The ranges are linear with great cliffs and precipitous faces of thick sections of gray carbonate strata. Rock outcrops characterize most peaks and ridges in the ecoregion. Regosolic and Eutric Brunisolic soils developed on steeply-sloping colluvial, morainal, and fluvioglacial deposits are dominant in the region. Dystric Brunisols are more common in the subalpine and alpine environments. Isolated patches of permafrost occur at higher elevations. Characteristic wildlife includes elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, caribou, wolf, grizzly and black bear, and mountain goat.  Most of the ecoregion falls within Banff and Jasper national parks, and Willmore Wilderness Provincial Park, where tourism and recreation are the major land uses. Outside of the park boundaries, big game hunting, and some forestry and resource exploration take place. The main communities are Jasper, Banff, and Lake Louise. The population of the ecoregion is approximately 10 100.

This ecoregion is part of the Montane Cordillera ecozone.