Canada What is Canada's environmental footprint
Canada covers an area of approximately 9.98 million square kilometers. It is almost as big as all of Europe and the second largest country in the world after Russia.
This huge area is inhabited by only about 36 million people, who mainly live in metropolises such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.
Canada is a country in the north. The climate limits economic use in many areas. Agriculture can only use around eight percent of the entire country - yet the agricultural area is almost twice the size of Germany.
Forests cover around 46 percent of the area, three percent are ice fields. People only settle on about one percent of the entire area. The northernmost point is only a few hundred kilometers from the North Pole.
Mountains and ice
Canada's landscape is very complex. The country is divided into 39 natural regions, all with different types of rock, fauna and flora.
The landforms were created by the shifting of the continental plate of North America against the Pacific plate. This is how the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon came into being. These mountains are still growing and the west coast of Canada above the plate margins is an active earthquake zone.
The mountainous regions in eastern Canada are foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The arctic north is a land of permafrost with ice and mountains. The "Canadian Shield" comprises the oldest rock surfaces in the world, some of which are over four billion years old.
The "Inner Plains" consist of a huge flat area with a rocky bedrock. Glaciers created the "Great Lakes" and the St. Lawrence River.
Buffalo, bear, beaver
It was only in the past 12,000 years - since the Ice Age - that animals and plants have settled in Canada. The biodiversity is not particularly great given the huge area of the country.
There are nearly 200 species of mammals and around 550 species of birds that are sighted annually - most of them are migratory birds. Indigenous animal species include whales, walruses, seals and the polar bear. They are at home in the arctic waters.
In the tundra there are musk ox, caribou, wolves, arctic foxes, lemmings - and numerous migratory birds in the summer months. The forests in the north provide the habitat for caribou and elk, lynx, black and brown bears, grizzlies, but also beavers, martens, muskrats and mink.
There are only very few specimens left north of Vancouver of the "king of the skies", the bald eagle.
Even the buffalo, which once populated the prairies by the millions, were threatened with extinction around 1900, and are now being protected.
Salmon, cod, lobster and herring form the basis of Canada's fishing industry, and the Newfoundland Bank is one of the world's most productive fishing grounds.
However, some of the stocks are threatened by overfishing. There are also protests against fur fishing. Around half of the furs now come from fur farms.
One would think that such a huge country with so few inhabitants could not have any environmental problems. The opposite is the case.
Nature in a country on the edge of the Arctic is very sensitive. Many of the environmental problems emerge far removed from the areas where most Canadians live.
So environmental awareness emerged only late. According to a study by Simon Fraser University, Canada lags far behind the industrialized nations when it comes to environmental protection. Per capita carbon dioxide emissions are among the highest in the world.
The timber industry is an important pillar of the Canadian economy, but most of the forests are too far from the settlement areas and using it would involve high transport costs.
So the trees near the settlements in the south are being overexploited; Rainforests in the west are also affected and particularly endangered.
There is a danger in the Arctic north from the oil and gas storage facilities and pipelines that are drawn through the sensitive ecosystem. Environmental groups have been committed to protecting nature from pollution and destruction since the 1960s.
The more than 40 national parks in Canada provide the best protection for nature because it is also legally secured. The first was established in 1885, then called "Rocky Mountain Park", later it was renamed "Banff National Park".
At the beginning there were still economic considerations - the park should attract visitors so that they could use Canada's new railway line - the idea was soon expanded to include the idea of nature conservation.
The aim now was to preserve nature, but to make it accessible to visitors. The parks quickly became popular with visitors - and the government set up more.
In 1911 the "Dominion Parks Branch" was established as an administrative office for the national parks, today it is called "Parks Canada". Around two percent of Canada's area is now under special protection in the national parks.
Each park is a typical example of a particular region. It is intended to preserve the wilderness as it largely existed before the arrival of the Europeans.
The desired scope has not yet been achieved, however, around a third of the planned parks still have to be set up.
And the authority responsible for the parks warned a few years ago that the protection zones had become ecological islands, no longer connected to other habitats and threatened by settlements and economic use in the vicinity.
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