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Ecological Framework of Canada
Ecoregions of Canada


This ecoregion occurs west of the Mackenzie River along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. The mean annual temperature is approximately -11°C with a summer mean of 4.5°C and a winter mean of -24°C. The mean annual precipitation ranges from less than 200 to 300 mm. This ecoregion is classified as having a low arctic ecoclimate. It supports a nearly continuous cover of shrubby tundra vegetation, consisting of dwarf birch, willow, northern Labrador tea, Dryas spp., and sedge tussocks. Tall dwarf birch, willow, and alder occur on warm sites; wet sites are dominated by arctic willow, sphagnum moss, and tussock-forming sedge. The Yukon Coastal Plain is largely an erosion surface cut into Tertiary sandstone and shale that is covered with a thin veneer of recent sediments. The plain decreases in elevation towards the west and is drift- or lake-covered along the coast to near Herschel Island. Coalesced deltas and alluvial fans built by streams from the British Mountains and coastal lagoons form the unglaciated plain west of the island. Turbic Cryosols developed on level to rolling, morainal, fluvioglacial, colluvial and marine deposits are the dominant soils in the ecoregion, while Static Cryosols are found on alluvial and eolian sediments primarily in the unglaciated portion. Permafrost is continuous with high ice content, and abundant ice wedges. Characteristic wetlands that account for 25-50% of the area are lowland polygon fens, both the low- and high-centre varieties. This ecoregion covers parts of the calving and summer range for the Porcupine caribou herd. Other species found here include muskox, snowshoe and arctic hare, red and arctic fox, wolf, and arctic ground squirrel. A variety of birds are present, including raptors, songbirds, ptarmigan, snowy owl, waterfowl, and shorebirds. In the marine environment, species present include walrus, seal, beluga whale, polar bear, and arctic char. Land uses include native subsistence trapping, hunting, and fishing, and recreation activities associated with Ivvavik National Park on the mainland and Herschel Island Territorial Park in the Beaufort Sea. There is high hydrocarbon potential off the coastal plain.

This ecoregion is part of the Southern Arctic ecozone.