National Parks of Canada: Banff and Cape Breton Highlands

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Banff National Park: What Is Where

Physical Geography

Banff National park is located in the rocky mountains of Alberta Canada’s western border with British Colombia. Lake Louise’s famous and stunning turquoise water also runs through this border just below the towering mountains. Banff is made up of elevated land which form mountainous regions. Therefore the main landform region for this area, is the rocky mountain region which is also part of the mountain forest region. This biome has the most elevated land in Canada. The town of Banff was formed in 1886 as a transportation and service center for the tourist industry. A year later in 1887, the reserve was expanded to 674 km 2 and renamed the rocky mountains park. This area was made the responsibility of Parks Canada by the national parks act. This national park experiences “average” amounts of rainfall compared to other places in Alberta and Canada. As shown in the graph below, the average rainfall in banff is quite moderate, this is because of the lack of daylight which is often needed for the process of evaporation. Especially in colder winter months like January, the sun stays up for a shorter amount of time before night, producing very little heat. This causes the temperatures to stay adequately low and therefore limiting evaporation, a process which is needed for precipitation.

The temperature in Banff is also moderate, the average temperatures range from 14 °c to -13°c. These temperatures are mostly affected by air masses, particularly pacific air. The air from the pacific is moist and humid, as it goes up the mountainous regions, the air starts to cool down. While the air is then forced downwards towards the park and surrounding area, the air starts to get a little warmer and humid. This acts as a moderating effect and it causes the temperatures to stay fairly adequate. Comparing the temperature and rain, the climate tends to be a little wetter and cooler than expected. Banff National Park has a maritime climate because of the bodies of water that surround and travel throughout the park. Lake louise is the main contributor to this type of climate however, the saskatchewan river travels around this area as well. The two main factors that affect the climate in this area are relief and elevation and nearness to water. Relief and elevation affect the temperatures because of the altitudes, the higher the altitude the lower the temperature. The explanation for this is the difference in pressure when higher up in the atmosphere. Similar to gravity, the pressure is much stronger closer to the core of the earth.

Why There

The endogenic and exogenic processes make up these mountain region landforms. The rocky mountains that Banff is situated in, is formed by endogenic processes, tectonic movement. Mountains are created when two tectonic plates collide with each other and one is forced downward beneath the other. The Canadian Rockies were formed around 75 million years ago when the pacific plate collided with the north american plate and was subducted beneath it. For this landform region, the exogenic processes contradict with the endogenic processes. Exogenic processes are processes that occur on the surface of the earth. For example, some exogenic factors that appear in the Rockies are erosion and weathering. These factors shape the mountains and in doing that it can create “habitats” for different species within the ecosystem.

Vegetation is a key aspect that makes up the park. Banff is home to many diverse species of plants. For example, the majority of trees in this area are evergreen, this includes, lodgepole pine, engelmann spruce, subalpine and so many more. The most important tree in this area would be the Whitebark Woes. This is because it stabilizes the slopes on the towering (height number) mountains. These whitebark woes also create roadblocks or more like mountain blocks which help to sustain snow drifts. Furthermore, they provide food, cover and shelter for other species that live and/or travel through the mountains. It plays an essential role in its ecosystem especially within the food web and food chains. However this species of whitebark woes have been declared endangered*. Another important form of vegetation are wildflowers. This is one of the main priorities for Parks Canada as it attracts tourists and maintains the different food webs and food chains in an ecosystem.

Why Care

This park is one of the most beautiful parks in Canada, which is why it attracts an abundant amount of tourists. Parks Canada has been able to make it a priority now to protect Banff and its wildlife, vegetation and especially the tourist favourites. This is mainly the wild flowers, trees and anything else that is visually appealing. However, there are multiple disadvantages when other species are neglected and “visually appealing species” are favoured. This could be with pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Some cons include, damage to the land and aquatic life, and destruction to the ecosystem and its food webs.

Banff is home to so many different species, making it a very diverse area in terms of the species interact with one another. Parks Canada has made it their responsibility to make sure Banff’s wildlife and ecosystems are protected to the best of their ability. However, several species have been declared endangered. The main cause for this is climate change being the major cause for loss of habitat in the ecosystem. Alberta contributes to a large amount of pollution that is produced by Canada. This is because of their valuable oil sands which provide gasoline and other petroleum products. Oil sands, also known as tar sands, consist of a mixture of mostly sand, clay, water bitumen, which are made of hydrocarbons. This molecule is also found in liquid oil, which is why it is manufactured out of the oil to produce different products. However greenhouse gases which are terrible for the environment are produced when extracting oil from these sands. This numerous negative effects on the park and mostly its biodiversity. Some aquatic life have been extirpated while others are either threatened or endangered. Due to the fertilizers, chemicals and other forms of pollution in the lakes and rivers, the aquatic life in Banff face many traumatic experiences. In some sections, algal mats have formed and to add to this list of these negative impacts created by humans, rare species have entered the lake and destroyed the ecoystem’s sustainability.

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park: What Is Where

Physical Geography

Cape Breton Highlands National Park is located in Nova Scotia, just north of Cape Breton Island. The main park is situated in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, however the parks landform regions and lakes can be found throughout the island. Tourists are attracted to this place because of its spectacular landform regions which include the famous Cape Breton highlands. These highlands are tundra like plateaus. Other landforms comprise of mountains, valleys and waterfalls. Cape Breton has a lot of wildlife, which is why in 1936 the federal government established the Cape Breton Highlands National Park covering 950 km² across the northern third of the Highlands. The Cabot Trail scenic highway also encircles the coastal perimeter of the plateau. While the coastal areas of Inverness and Victoria counties along the plateau are home to several dozen small fishing and tourism-related communities, the interior of the plateau has no public roads and very little human presence, making it one of Nova Scotia's largest wilderness areas.

Precipitation in Cape Breton is distributed to all seasons of the the year whether it’s snow or rain, there is moderate amount of precipitation due to the area’s proximity to water. As shown in the graphs below, the temperature ranges from 17.5°c to -8.5°c and precipitation averages from 970 mm to 71.8, considering that this includes snow and rain, both the temperature and rainfall is not extreme except for the amount of snowfall. The Atlantic Ocean helps to regulate rain as well as temperature because of the air masses that are created from the ocean and the temperature of the air itself. The plateaus also play a key part in how much rain or how cold it is. The elevation, helps for surface runoff during precipitation into the ocean again and also the air masses to get more or less dense while moving through the plateaus. The overall climate in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is maritime because of its nearness to the atlantic ocean and elevation due to the plateaus. Marine climates also have an effect on rapid changes in the weather and extreme amounts of snowfall. However due to climate change, the weather is changing and more extreme weather is very likely in Cape Breton for the years to come.

Why There

Much like Banff National Park, endogenic and exogenic processes and factors are what make up the park. The fascinating plateaus were created around 450-360 million years ago when the Blair River Inlier which was formerly lying on the edge of the laurentine plate collided and formed the core of Cape Breton Island. Unlike Banff, there aren’t as many exogenic factors that act on the endogenic factors except for minor factors like water and wind. However these factors also make up the region rather than “tear down” like in Banff, an example could be the beautiful waterfalls.

Cape Breton has numerous rare species and lots of unique plants because of how some of the land has very little human presence. This means that there are also little negative impacts made by humans in that specific area. Climate, and landforms regions create a surprising mix of northern and southern plants. Northern plants consist of 631 native plant species and 118 foreign exotic species that were either purposely or accidentally brought by humans. For example, Japanese knotweed, ox-eye daisy, lupine, and black-eyed susan. Most southern plants are usually found further south in places like New England, however, these plants thrive in Cape Breton’s rich woodlands in the sheltered valleys. Examples of southern plants include, sugar maple, Dutchman's breeches, and yellow birch. The famous plateaus tend to be a bit chiller which is why plants like, balsam fir, white birch, black spruce and bunchberry tend to flourish in this area. Cape Breton's vegetation and biomes can be separated into three parts, Acadian, composed of mixed woods. Boreal, or softwood and Taiga, made up of scrub forest, barrens and bogs.

Why Care

Although Cape Breton is such an amazing place with so many unique features and wilderness, many species of animals and even vegetation are in harm. Not just threatened, but endangered some even extinct. Not only does this sound bad but it also destroyed so many aspects of life such as the food chain. Once species is removed or even threatened, a chain reaction wrecks the food chain and ruins its sustainability. Some species in this area have been endangered since the 2000s, it has been almost more than two decades, which means they could either be extinct or still very endangered. Moose, Boreal Felt Lichen, and Atlantic Whitefish are just a few of the endangered species in the area.

The population of so many living wildlife has declined subsequently in the past few years. The cause for the harm is mainly three things. Firstly habitat destruction, shelter is one of the most important things needed for the survival of living things. Recreational beaches, autos, and garbage are some ways that humans are destroying habitats. For example, nests which are camouflage can easily be demolished when humans are not caring about the cleanliness of recreational beaches. Invasive non-native species, are another reason for the native’s species’ decline in population. When other species like the bobcat come to a non-native land like Cape Breton the competition increases and the food chain is destroyed. The most obvious cause for the decrease in population is Global Climate Change. Not just Cape Breton but most of the world has been contributing to climate change with different forms of pollution. This affects the entire world and its sustainability. Cape Breton has been trying to protect their park and its wonderful species. Through parks canada, they have been conducting several research projects, monitoring and observing the population decline, and working with different agencies and corporations in protecting multiple species and their habitats.


Comparing Banff and Cape Breton

Cape Breton and banff have quite similar landforms in terms of elevation. This also leads to similar climates and exogenic and endogenic processes. However although they both have maritime climates it is from two different sources. They both also have lots of wilderness however there are different species. Sadly, both beautiful parks are home to endangered species. Even though they are being protected through park canada, there is still so much that is destroying our beautiful parks, one of the main causes being climate change. This has not only affected these parks but it will also soon affect all of us and our needs for survival. So, I truly believe that we need to protect our environment, after all it is our only home.

My Trip

After all this research on endangered species the two places i’m going to visit are Banff National Park and Cape Breton Highlands National Parks, both are near water but two different waters, atlantic and pacific. I will be going to these parks because they are home to many endangered species. I will be going there to learn more about exactly how the parks are being protected.

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