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Geography

Geography is the study of places, Earth’s physical features and environmental phenomena. Geographers also examine human populations and their impact on the natural world. This collection from The Canadian Encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics in both physical and human geography. These topics include geographic regions, sustainable development, and Indigenous populations.

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Gulf

A gulf is a body of water partly surrounded by land and connected to an ocean or sea. This connection sometimes takes the form of a narrow passage called a strait. The nomenclature of water inlets can be inconsistent between sources. Sometimes, the terms gulf,  bay and sea are used interchangeably. For example, the Arabian Sea and Hudson Bay can both be classified as gulfs. However, in most cases a gulf is deeper and larger than a bay and is also more enclosed from the ocean or sea to which it is connected. Because gulfs are partially surrounded by land, their waters are typically calmer than those of oceans. This makes them suitable for activities such as transportation, fishing and leisure.

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Dam

A dam is a structure built across a waterway to control or stop the flow of water. This is called impounding the flow of water. Dams can be built by animals, such as beavers, or constructed by humans. In some cases, they are even formed by natural geological forces.

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Bay

A bay is a body of water partly surrounded by land and connected to a larger body of water. It is typically bigger than a cove and smaller than a gulf. However, this is not always the case. For example, Hudson Bay is much larger than the Persian Gulf. Strictly speaking and by international agreement, to be defined as a bay, a water body’s mouth (the boundary between itself and the larger body of water to which it is connected) must not exceed 24 nautical miles. In addition, its area must exceed that of a semicircle drawn with the mouth as its diameter.

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Dike

In geography and civil engineering, a dike is a barrier or ditch limiting or preventing the flow of water. Such barriers are also called levees. While a dam stretches across a waterway, a dike usually runs along its side. Dikes can form as a result of natural forces, but most are constructed by humans. The purpose of building a dike is usually to prevent flooding. New land can also be reclaimed by using dikes to drain wetlands or to push back the boundaries of a body of water.

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Causeway

A causeway is a raised path, railway or road across an expanse of low ground, wetlands or water. It is different from a bridge in that it has little or no opening underneath. Instead, it consists of a crest with embankments on either side. It is typically made of compacted earth, sand and rocks. In most cases, causeways are made by humans to connect different dry land areas to each other. Such connections can also be made up of a combination of causeway and bridge segments. Sometimes, a causeway can serve several purposes simultaneously. In addition to the passage it provides, the bulk of its structure may be intended to function as a dam or dike.

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Daylight Saving Time in Canada

In Canada, daylight saving time is the practice of turning clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March and back one hour on the first Sunday in November. Canada has six standard time zones that may be abbreviated as PST (pacific standard time), MST (mountain standard time), etc. However, during the daylight saving period between March and November, they may be abbreviated as PDT, MDT, etc. The boundaries of the standard time zones are not necessarily the same as those of the corresponding daylight saving time zones. For example, the mountain time zone includes a portion of northeastern British Columbia in the summer, but not during the winter (see maps below). Boundaries shift because some municipalities choose not to participate in daylight saving time. Saskatchewan follows central standard time year-round.

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Time Zones in Canada

There are six time zones in Canada covering four and a half hours. From west to east these time zones are: Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, Atlantic and Newfoundland. From the first Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March these zones are referred to as standard time zones, and may be abbreviated as PST, MST, CST, etc. From the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November most of Canada follows daylight saving time. During this summer period the time zones may be abbreviated as PDT, MDT, CDT, etc. The boundaries of the standard time zones are not necessarily the same as those of the corresponding daylight saving time zones. For example, the Mountain time zone includes a portion of northeastern British Columbia in the summer, but not during the winter (see maps below). Boundaries shift because some municipalities choose not to participate in daylight saving time. Similarly, Saskatchewan follows CST year-round.

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Breakwater

A breakwater is a structure built along a shore or offshore, approximately parallel to a shoreline. Some breakwaters float at the water’s surface, while bottom-resting models may emerge from the surface or lie entirely underwater. Breakwaters are different from dikes because they allow some water flow and do not seal off one portion of a water body from another.

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Canadian Shield

The Canadian Shield refers to the exposed portion of the continental crust underlying the majority of North America. The crust, also known as the North American Craton, extends from northern Mexico to Greenland and consists of hard rocks at least 1 billion years old. With the exception of the Canadian Shield, the rocks of the North American Craton are buried deep within the continent and covered by soil and other material. At 5 million km2, the Shield makes up roughly 50 per cent of Canada’s land mass. Shaped like a horseshoe — or the shields carried during hand-to-hand combat — the Canadian Shield extends from Labrador in the east to include nearly all of Québec, much of Ontario and Manitoba, the northern portion of Saskatchewan, the northeast corner of Alberta, much of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and into the Arctic Archipelago. (It also reaches into parts of the United States, in New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota.) While at times a barrier to settlement, the Shield has also yielded great resources, including minerals, coniferous forests and the capacity for hydroelectric developments.

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Physiographic Regions

Canada may be divided into seven physiographic regions: Arctic Lands, Cordillera, Interior Plains, Hudson Bay Lowland, Canadian Shield Forest Lands, St Lawrence Lowlands and Appalachia.

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Human Settlement in Canada

A human settlement is a place where people live. Settlement patterns describe the ways in which villages, towns, cities and First Nation reserves are distributed, as well as the factors that influence this arrangement. Throughout Canadian history, climate, natural resources, transportation methods and government policy have affected human settlement in the country. Today, the majority of Canadians live in cities in the southern portion of the country. (See also Human Geography and Canada.)

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Social History

Social history is a way of looking at how a society organizes itself and how this changes over time. The elements that make up Canada’s social history include climate and geography, as well as the transition to industrialization and urbanization.

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Human Geography and Canada

Human geography studies the relationships between people and the environments in which they live. Within the field of human geography there are five main areas of study. These areas are economic geography, cultural geography, political geography, urban geography and environmental geography. In Canada, human geographers might study the status of Indigenous languages or differences between rural and urban Canadians, among many other topics.

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National Parks of Canada

Canada’s national parks are protected areas established under federal legislation to preserve Canada’s natural heritage. They are administered by Parks Canada, a government agency that evolved from the world’s first national parks service, the Dominion Parks Branch, established in 1911. The National Parks System Plan, developed in 1970, divided Canada into 39 natural regions and set the goal of representing each region with at least one national park. Canada now has 48 national parks and national park reserves in 30 of these regions. In total, the parks cover more than 340,000 km2, which is over 3 per cent of Canada’s landmass. They protect important land and marine habitats, geographical features and sites of cultural significance. National parks also benefit local economies and the tourism industry in Canada.

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