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Canadian prairies

From Academic Kids

The Canadian prairies is a vast area of flat sedimentary land that stretches from Ontario and the Canadian Shield to the Canadian Rockies covering much of the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta - the Prairie Provinces.

The prairies are one of the world's most important farming areas with wheat being grown in the south and beef cattle being raised in Alberta being two of the most important commodities.

Three grassland types occur in prairie Canada: Tallgrass Prairie, Mixed Prairie and Fescue Prairie. Each has a unique geographic distribution and characteristic mix of plant species. All but a fraction of one percent of the Tallgrass Prairie has been converted to cropland. What remains occurs on the 6,000 square kilometre plain centred in the Red River Valley in Manitoba. Mixed Prairie is more common and is part of the dry interior plains that extend from Canada south to Texas. More than half of the remaining native grassland in prairie Canada is Mixed Prairie. Though widespread in southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, due to extensive cattle grazing, it is estimated that only 24 percent of the original Mixed Prairie grassland remains. Fescue Prairie occurs in the moister regions, occupying the northern extent of the prairies in central and southwestern Alberta and west central Saskatchewan (see map (http://www.mb.ec.gc.ca/nature/whp/prgrass/df03s56.en.html)).

The southern prairies are extremely arid. One region known as Palliser's Triangle is so arid that farming has never been successful there without government help. The zones around the cities of Regina and Calgary are also rather dry. In an average year, southern Saskatchewan receives between 300 mm (12 in) and 510 mm (20 in) of precipitation, with the majority falling between April and June. Frost from October to March limits the growing season.

The eastern section of the prairies, in Manitoba, is well watered with several large lakes, most notably Lake Winnipeg, and also some large rivers. The area also gets reasonable amounts of precipitation. The middle sections of Alberta and Saskatchewan are also wetter than the south and have better farmland, despite having a shorter growing season. The areas around Edmonton and Saskatoon are especially notable as good crop land.

Further north the area becomes too cold for most agriculture and is dominated by boreal forest.

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