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Article

Moss

Moss is a small terrestrial plant, usually less than 10 cm tall, that lacks true conducting tissues (xylem, phloem) and has a dominant gametophyte (sexual) generation. Mosses are the largest and most highly developed group of division Bryophyta (which also includes liverworts and hornworts). Bryophytes are sometimes known as the “amphibians of the plant world” because of their dependence on water for sexual reproduction. There are over 10,000 species of moss worldwide, of which about 1,250 are found in North America. Individual parts of Canada have fewer species (e.g., 466 species in Alberta, 445 in Newfoundland, 430 in Ontario). Mosses thrive in humid climates, and coastal parts of Canada have a greater diversity than the interior parts.

Article

Fur Trade in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The fur trade began in the 1600s in what is now Canada. It continued for more than 250 years. Europeans traded with Indigenous people for beaver pelts. The demand for felt hats in Europe drove this business. The fur trade was one of the main reasons that Europeans explored and colonized Canada. It built relationships between Europeans and Indigenous peoples.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the fur trade. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Fur Trade in Canada.)

Article

Air Pollution

Air pollutants are substances that, when present in the atmosphere in sufficient quantities, may adversely affect people, animals, vegetation or inanimate materials.

Article

Endangered Animals in Canada

Many animals in Canada face the risk of extinction. Animals are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change, the loss of forest and grassland to cities and agriculture, hunting, fishing, and the pollution of lakes and rivers. As of 2021, 554 animal species are at risk in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In addition, 18 are extirpated and 18 extinct. The committee’s definition of a wildlife species includes taxonomic categories as well as geographically distinct populations. For example, the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is included in the list of at risk animal species six times, as there are six different populations facing different threats to their survival. (See also Endangered Plants in Canada.)

Article

Arctic Animals

Arctic animals are those that have adapted physically and behaviourally to the particular conditions of life in the most northerly regions on the planet.

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James Bay Project

In 1971, Hydro-Québec and the government of Quebec initiated the James Bay Project, a monumental hydroelectric-power development on the east coast of James Bay. (See also Hydroelectricity in Canada.) Over the course of two phases, a total of eight generating stations were built, allowing for the pollution-free production of a significant portion of Quebec’s electricity. However, the project also profoundly disrupted the environment and the Indigenous communities living in the region, the effects of which are still being felt today.

Article

Potato Wart Disease

Potato wart disease, also called potato canker, is a fungal disease of potato sprouts, eyes and stolons. The disease is caused by the soil-borne fungus, Synchytrium endobioticum. Potato wart disease poses no danger to human health or food safety, but it can impact local economies as the disease can reduce yield and effect economic regulations, such as potato exports. (See also Agricultural Economics.)

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Great Canadian Fauna

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations (UN) as development that “meets the needs of the present” while ensuring the future sustainability of the planet, its people and its resources. Meeting these needs often requires balancing three key features of sustainable development: environmental protection, economic growth and social inclusion. The goals of sustainable development are interconnected. The most successful sustainable development projects will include environmental, economic and social considerations in their final plan. These considerations must include the free, prior and informed consent of any Indigenous groups impacted by a sustainable development project.

Article

Permafrost

Permafrost is ground remaining at or below 0°C continuously for at least two years. About 50 per cent of Canada is underlain by permafrost, mainly in the Arctic Archipelago, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Article

Natural Resources in Canada

Natural resources are aspects of the natural environment from which goods and services can be obtained and produced. They include air, sunlight, water, land, vegetation, animal life and geological resources. People can also value natural resources for their own sake or for their aesthetic qualities. Humans must manage natural resources to sustain the benefits they offer.

Canada is among the most resource-rich countries in the world. Its large and varied natural resources are essential to its economies and cultures. But there are ongoing debates about how to use, share and manage natural resources.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

This is the full-length entry about natural resources in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Natural Resources in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).

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Whale Species in Canada

Whale is the common name for large marine mammals of the order Cetartiodactyla (formerly Cetacea). They are subdivided into the Mysticeti, or baleen whales, and Odontoceti, or toothed whales. Smaller kinds of toothed whales are called dolphins or porpoises. Thirty-five whale species are found at least occasionally in Canadian waters — 9 species of baleen whales, and 26 species of toothed whales (mostly dolphins and porpoises). The commercial pursuit of whales was significant in early European exploration of Canada (see Whaling). Since the end of commercial whaling in Canada in 1972, whale watching has become popular. Whales found in Canada range in size from about 60 kg for the harbour porpoise to well over 100 tonnes for the blue whale, making it the largest animal ever known.

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Canadian Arctic Sovereignty

Arctic sovereignty is a key part of Canada’s history and future. The country has 162,000 km of Arctic coastline. Forty per cent of Canada’s landmass is in its three northern territories. Sovereignty over the area has become a national priority for Canadian governments in the 21st century. There has been growing international interest in the Arctic due to resource development, climate change, control of the Northwest Passage and access to transportation routes. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2008, “The geopolitical importance of the Arctic and Canada’s interests in it have never been greater.”

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Mantid

Mantids are carnivorous insects of the order Mantodea, known for their prayer-like posture. Mantids are most closely related to cockroaches and termites. There are about 2,400 species worldwide, most of which are found in the tropics. Only three species are found in Canada: the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) and the ground mantid (Litaneutriaminor). Of these three species only the ground mantid, found in southern British Columbia, is native.

Although mantis is sometimes used to refer to the entire group, most entomologists prefer to use that word for members of the genus Mantis.

Article

Common Gartersnake

The common gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is a relatively small, striped, non-venomous snake. It is one of the most widespread snake species in North America and its range extends farther north than any other North American snake. In Canada, it is found in every province except Newfoundland and Labrador, and as far north as James Bay and into the southernmost Northwest Territories. The common gartersnake is broken into five subspecies across Canada: the Maritime gartersnake (Thamnophis s. pallidulus; PEI, NS, NB, QC), the Eastern gartersnake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis; QC, ON), the red-sided gartersnake (Thamnophis s. parietalis; ON, MB, SK, AB, BC, NWT), the valley gartersnake (Thamnophis s. fitchi; BC), and the Puget Sound gartersnake (Thamnophis s. pickeringii; BC).

Article

Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket is the common name for wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. They belong to the insect family Vespidae in the order Hymenoptera, which also includes other types of wasps such as hornets, as well as  bees and ants. Worldwide, there are about 50 recognized species of yellowjacket, 17 of which are native to Canada. These native species include the common (Vespula alascensis), Eastern (V. maculifrons), Western (V. pensylvanica) and aerial (Dolichovespula arenaria) yellowjacket. One species, the German yellowjacket (V. germanica), is introduced to Canada and is especially common in Ontario and Quebec.