Canada is the northernmost country in North America and shares a border with the contiguous US to the south. It covers a total area of 3,855,103 square miles, making it the second largest country by territory in the world. Of this total area, 3,511,023 square miles is made up of land and 344,080 square miles is made up of freshwater. This country has borders along several ocean bodies, including the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. Its large size means that this country also experiences a diverse range of climates, from polar in the north to mild in the west. The landscape is just as varied as the climate and ranges from temperate forests to mountains, volcanoes, arctic regions, and plains areas. Many of the volcanoes here are considered active and the country is prone to earthquakes. The interior of Canada is filled with more than 2 million freshwater lakes, which means this country holds a large percentage of the global freshwater supply. This country has a population size of around 35.75 million people.
The Longest Coastline in the World
Although Canada is only the second largest country by territory, it has the longest coastline in the world. The coastline of Canada measures approximately 151,019 miles long. This distance is so long that walking a little over 12 miles per day would take over 30 years to complete! Some experts, however, estimate the coastline here differently and offer other measurements that are either slightly shorter or longer.
Ten of the provinces of this country have a shoreline; the longest of these is found in Newfoundland & Labrador. In total, this province has nearly 18,000 miles of coastline. The shortest coastline is found in the Yukon province, where it runs along the ocean for only 213 miles. Of the total population of Canada (approximately 35.75 million), only around 7 million people live at or near the coastal areas.
Calculating an accurate coastline measurement can be difficult for researchers. This phenomenon is known as the coastline paradox, which posits that coastlines are difficult to measure due to their irregular shapes. In other words, a coastline length will vary based on the manner in which it was measured. When measuring irregular shapes, most researchers use a straight line from one point to the next. If that straight line is longer, the final measurement will be shorter because it does not take into account certain physical characteristics of the coastline. In contrast, the shorter the straight line, the longer the final measurement. This phenomenon is perhaps best illustrated with the measurement of the British Columbia province in Canada. Because of its many inlets and jutting coastal features, this coastline alone technically makes up 10% of the entire coast of Canada at 15,985 miles in length.
The coastline paradox also serves to explain why two major sources of global information, the World Resources Institute, and the World Factbook, have such varied measurements of the coastline of Canada. The World Resources Institute reports a length of 164,988 miles, while the World Factbook reports a measurement of 125,566 miles.
Large Ocean Management Areas In Canada
Of the entire coastline of Canada, the government has declared 5 sections to be Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMA’s). These coastline sections are protected by the government as key ecosystems for conservation, management, and planning. The 5 LOMA’s of Canada include: the Pacific North Coast, the Placentia Bay, the Eastern Scotian Shelf, the Beaufort Sea, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Pacific North Coast is of particular ecological importance and comprises nearly one-quarter of the Canadian Pacific waters. This coastal zone is home to dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, and 27 whale species. In addition to these marine animals, the Pacific North Coast is also an important habitat for a number of seabirds. In fact, 80% of the global population of Cassin’s auklets inhabit this area. One of the oldest species found here is the glass sponge reefs, which date back over 9,000 years. These reefs are some of the tallest ever recorded, reaching heights equal to 5-floor buildings.
The Placentia Bay region, located off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, is another of the Canadian LOMA areas along the coastline. This area has been experiencing an increase in economic development, which has caused some degradation to the shore. In fact, it serves as the largest port for oil exports in the country. Additionally, this bay is home to a number of plant species, 14 marine mammal species, at least 49 bird species, and 23 fish species.
The Eastern Scotian Shelf is located off the coastline of the province of Nova Scotia. This area primarily relies on the fishing industry and petroleum exploration, which led the government to declare it an official LOMA region. Researchers have also identified a significant amount of contaminants throughout the waters. A number of marine animals inhabit the Eastern Scotian Shelf, making it an important place to concentrate conservation efforts.
The Effects of Climate Change
The coastal areas of Canada are particularly susceptible to the effects of global climate change. Some researchers believe that the very diversity of this coastline is what puts it at risk. Rising levels of ocean water can affect every aspect of the coast, from the lowest-lying areas to those with the highest rock cliffs. Additionally, global climate change has also had a significant impact on sea ice throughout the Canadian coastline. This ice can be found in all areas, although it is less common on the west coast. The amount of sea ice along the coastline affects both shipping capabilities and changes in the shore areas. Because temperatures have been increasing along the coastline, the amount of sea ice is diminishing. This decreased amount of sea ice means that the ocean is exposed and able to be navigated by large ships for increased periods of time. It also means that the coastline is exposed to extreme weather conditions, which results in erosion of the shore.