Environment: Freshwater facts for Canada and the world.

Water is life. All living things depend on water to support life functions. Human and animal food supplies are dependent upon fresh water through agriculture and fisheries. The spiritual values of water are known to all civilizations and water plays a major role in cultural and recreational activities around the world today.

Air is a common term for the atmosphere made of nitrogen, oxygen and other trace gases that surround our planet and make life on earth possible. The atmosphere is a complex natural system. Air pollution from raising animals for human consumption, transportation, industries, and other sources causes an imbalance in this system by modifying its chemical composition. Living things are affected by air pollution in a variety of negative ways.

Our earth's climate is changing. Globally, this is evident in increasing average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising average sea level. In Canada, we are already seeing rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and increases in certain types of hazardous weather, such as heat waves. In the Arctic, rising temperatures are thawing permafrost and shrinking the oceans ice cover. Environment Canada is a national focal point for Canadian research on the climate system and the science of climate change. Our scientists investigate Canada's past, present and future climate to determine how our climate is changing, as well as the causes and effects of this change. In addition, we develop the science needed to understand the impacts of climate change on Canada, and how we can adapt to these changes.

Grown in the garden of Canada

Cloudberries are called ‘molter’ in Norwegian and are often nicknamed ‘highland gold’. Cloudberries are from the rose family of plants and therefore are closely related to strawberries, raspberries, cherries and apples. Cloudberries grow in swamp areas in the Arctic on mountains, on plains and even by the sea. They don’t like to sit in swamp water but grow on little mounds usually with other plants such as grasses and ferns. The plants might seem small but they have a large underground root and runners system and so one plant can occupy a large area. Some runners are over 4 metres long and the roots run up to 2 metres into the ground. There are usually more male plants than female plants in any one area. The female plants can take several years to produce fruit (up to 7) and they do not produce fruit every season. Not every plant gets pollinated so it is common to see fruitless red flowers.

Cloudberries are also known as "bakeapple" in Newfoundland. “They’re called bakeapple because when the sun shines, they smell like apple pie,” said one native gentleman who knew this from his Irish ancestors landing on this remote and foggy coast of Newfoundland around 300 years ago. Regular vegetables do not grow in Newfoundland. You will not find locally grown tomatoes or sweet corn. You wouldn't even find acres of alfalfa or soybeans. Orchards of cherry and peach trees do not cloak these rocky hillsides. You will, however, find “ditch gardens” along the roadside surrounded by makeshift fences. But these are mostly planted in potatoes and turnips. Newfoundland doesn’t really have dirt. It has bogs and marshes. And it lies yards deep in peat moss with a thin frosting of sphagnum moss. What Newfoundland has in abundance, however, are wild berries. Berries that you’ve probably never heard of, like crowberry, squashberry, and partridgeberry, as well as some that you have, like blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry. No one plants berries here, you just go out on the marsh and pick them. Bakeapple is a big, puffy berry, like a raspberry on steriods. When it’s ripe, it turns a beautiful golden amber. Some describe the taste of bakeapple as like honey or apricots, but one would just have to taste it to decide for themselves. One native Newfoundlander described the taste of a bake apple as being rather hard to describe. It’s lightly sweet and delicate. But the most noticeable thing about bakeapple are the seeds. It has large, crunchy seeds, so you can’t be discreet when sampling bakeapple. You will sound like you are chewing rocks. You will have a hard time carrying on a conversation because of the crunching in your ear. Bakeapple tastes good, but you can't quite get to the taste because of always trying to figure out what to do with the clump of masticated seeds in your mouth. But it's still worth a try to taste another part of Canada's garden.

The Longs Braya and the Fernalds Braya, are arctic-alpine like plants that have been found in the limestone barrens on the Great Northern Peninsula. That is an extremely unusual habitat that is home to several rare species of plants. Of course, Newfoundlanders often find it hard to believe that our province could host something so unique. But if you have ever driven up the Northern Peninsula and seen this landscape, it looks like open Arctic terrain between a roaring, cold Atlantic ocean and a much used paved road, then you would probably no longer doubt. This is the only place that these plants can be found in the world. We need to ensure that these plants will persist in their natural habitat.

Wildflowers, with their variety of colours, shapes, and scents, add immensely to the Banff National Park experience. Whether identifying, photographing or simply appreciating them, wildflowers brighten a visit to this mountain landscape.

The three major vegetation zones in the park support a variety of wildflower species. Here are some of the characteristic wildflowers of each zone, with a few suggestions for good places to find them.

The Montane Zone

The montane (low elevation) valleys of Banff National Park shelter many wildflowers that are more representative of the foothills and prairies. Examples include Prairie Crocus, Common Harebell, Western Wood Lily, Shooting Star, Three-flowered Avens, Starflowered Solomon's Seal, Wild Gaillardia (Brown-eyed Susan), Yellow Lady's Slipper, Common Butterwort, Elephanthead, and Early Blue Violet.

Good spots to find these wildflowers include the north shore of Johnson Lake, open grassy areas such as below the falls on Cascade Mountain or along the Bow Valley Parkway, and in the Saskatchewan River Crossing area in the northern part of the park.

There are a number of species that flourish across one or even two vegetation zones. Examples include Wild Rose (Alberta's floral emblem), Indian Paintbrush, Rock Jasmine, Wild Strawberry, Fireweed, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Yellow Columbine, Heart-leaved Arnica, Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus, Yellow Hedysarum, Common Harebell, Spotted Saxifrage, Stonecrop, Bearberry, Mountain Fireweed (River Beauty), Common Yarrow, and Northern Bedstraw.

Although there are blossoms out in the Canadian Rockies from as early as late March through until mid-September, the peak flowering time in Banff National Park at all elevations is from mid-July to mid-August. The flowering season of a particular species is affected by factors such as elevation, slope orientation, wind, soil, and precipitation (including in the winter).

Geography of Canada

With a total area of 9,984,670 sq km, Canada is the second largest country in the world, but it has the world's longest coastline, 202,080 km. A young and relatively undeveloped nation, Canada has preserved vast tracts of wilderness parkland to protect natural heritage habitats and species.

Endangered Wildlife in Canada

Every year, more and more of Canadas treasured wildlife are threatened by extinction. Today, there are 640 wildlife species at risk of extinction, according to the scientific Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. For roughly 75 percent of these species, the loss and degradation of their habitat is the central cause of their endangerment. Pollution, poaching and the growing effects of climate change are also threats that Canadian wildlife face every day.

Effects of Global Warming

Many of Canadas endangered wildlife live in the Arctic, which is experiencing the consequences of global warming more than any other place. Research shows that temperatures in the Arctic are rising at almost twice the rate of that of the rest of the world. Since 1979, the extent of summer ice has declined by 30 percent. Sea ice not only provides hunting ground for polar bears, but shelter and transportation for seals, walrus, arctic foxes, and the Inuit people.

The underside of Arctic ice provides a surface for algae that support cod, char, beluga, and narwhal. The white sea ice also has a cooling effect on climate by reflecting light away from Earths surface. As the Arctic continues to melt, global warming will advance even more quickly.

Nature Canada protects nature, its diversity and the processes that sustain it. They base their efforts on sound science and a passion for nature. They effect change on issues of national significance, including bird conservation, wilderness protection, endangered species and climate change.