About the Nearctic Realm – What is it? | Culture & Biogeography

world map with question marks on it, related to biogeography and the nearctic realm
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Realm? What are we, crossing through the wardrobe of Narnia? It sounds a bit fancy, but Biogeographic (or Zoogeographic) Realms are a way that scientists have divided the world to connect its main biological and geographic features. The continents in all their glory can be a confusing and misrepresentative way to look at the world. We’ve discussed if Bio-Realms might be a better way to divide our planet before. Here, I want to go deeper into one realm in particular, including some of its main physical and cultural features. Don’t mind me, I just love geography–and biogeography, apparently.

world map highlighting the nearctic realm in green
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What is the Nearctic?

The Nearctic Realm is a part of the wider “Arctic” Biogeographical Realm that stretches across much of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Ne-arctic, as in “New,” because it’s in the New World. That is, the world that was unknown by Eurasians and Africans up until a recent point. That is, the Americas. Put together with the Palearctic (“Old World” Arctic), they can be called the Holarctic (or the whole Arctic!). The Nearctic happens to coincide with what most people think of when they picture “North America.” It includes everything in that continent starting from the Arctic — including Greenland — and goes down until we reach the tropics. In the Southwest, this cutoff is somewhere in the middle of Mexico, while in the Southeast, the cutoff is Central Florida. 

Since we’re talking about the limitations of the realm, let’s look at the political geography. Only two countries take up the bulk of the Nearctic:

  • Canada
  • the United States

A good chunk of Mexico is in the Nearctic, though most of the country probably isn’t (it depends on definitions). Nearctic Mexico would be the deserts, shrublands, and temperate mountains in the north. The Kingdom of Denmark sneaks its way in by way of the massive constituent country, Greenland. France also has a piece by way of a tiny territory off the coast of Newfoundland called St. Pierre & Miquelon. Otherwise, that’s it!

Geography of the Nearctic

The Nearctic is known for having large, somewhat continuous biome types. Some major ones to remember are the Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, the Great Plains, the Nearctic (or North American) deserts, and the Eastern temperate forests. Much of those forests have been heavily urbanized or used for agriculture, but there are still some trees if you look. Oh, it’s not that bad.

cacti and flora in the sonora desert, southwestern nearctic realm
Sonora Desert – Brian Henderson

The realm is home to tons of lakes, big and small, with the largest (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, etc.) being in the Great Lakes region. There are also some seriously long rivers here too, with some notable mentions being the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Yukon, and the Rio Grande.

forest, lake, and mountain scene in the rocky mountains, a major feature of the nearctic realm
Rocky Mountains – G. Lamar

Major mountain systems include the famous Rockies, the Pacific Ranges (or Cordillera), the East and West Sierra Madres, and the Appalachians. They are all very extensive too. The Rockies stretch from the Southwest United States up into Northern Canada. The Pacific Ranges basically run up the entire Pacific Coast. Depending on definition, the Appalachians go from the hills of Mississippi to the rocky shores of Newfoundland. Another big one is the Arctic Cordillera, a set of rugged mountains that stretch from Northern Labrador and Quebec all the way up to Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. 

unique temperate rainforest in the pacific northwest region of north america
Temperate Rainforest, Pacific Northwest – Tjflex2

There are a couple of biomes that stand out from the rest of the realm. The Pacific Northwest is home to the biggest — or longest — temperate rainforest in the world. On the other end, Appalachia is home to pockets of temperate rain and cloud forests. A large section of the Gulf Coast, especially around Louisiana, is home to vast wetlands and swamps called bayous. 

ice cap in the arctic tundra of canada
Ice cap in Canadian Arctic – NASA ICE

Another distinct area is Greenland’s Arctic desert (that’s right, they can be cold). That biome is a dry, snowy wilderness covered in snow year-round. Since we’re in the “Ne-Arctic,” the weather is just about everything but tropical. As we saw, it ranges from moist forests to dry prairies and arid deserts. Mediterranean climate is common in the matorral and chaparral shrublands of the West. Parts of the southeastern Nearctic aren’t quite tropical, but do have a humid subtropical climate. The main ecoregions include subtropical forests, temperate mixed and conifer forests, boreal forests, temperate and subtropical grasslands and plains, tundra, Mediterranean wood and shrublands, deserts, and even mangroves off the coast of Northwestern Mexico.

Ecology of the Nearctic

The Nearctic is home to many plants and animals. Some of the common big fauna are antelope (pronghorns), bison, wolves, foxes, bobcats, lynx, cougars (or mountain lions), deer, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and musk oxen. There are also tons of rodents like rabbits, gophers, and squirrels, as well as beavers and porcupines. Armadillos, peccaries, and opossums came from further south. There are lots of bovids (cows) and horses too, but those were mostly introduced later. Camels, horses, and even a kind of cheetah were native to this region but endemic species have all died out.

turkey, an endemic and common fowl in the nearctic zone
Turkey – Tim Lumley

Alligators are common in some parts, as are many other reptiles, amphibians, and everything else. Major birds are crows, cardinals, turkeys, and hummingbirds, as well as many owls, hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, condors, and pelicans. Different berries and flowers, as well as specialized desert, tundra, and temperate zone plants are also found here. See this article for some interesting flora in North America.

Let’s Get Some Culture … of the Nearctic

As I mentioned before, one of the cool things about Bio-Realms is how they kind of coincide with human cultural interactions too. The dominating cultures in this realm tend to be this “Neo-Anglo” culture of the North American variety (it’s quite different from Neo-Anglo culture in the Caribbean, for example), and a Latin American culture, also of the North American variety. Neo-Anglo culture is strongest throughout, especially in much of the U.S. and Canada. Still, Latino culture is strong in the Southwest of the region. This is mostly in Mexico (duh!), but also in bordering U.S. states and several urban areas throughout the realm. 

“Neo-Franco” culture is strong in some areas like Canada, especially in Quebec province. It also has some influence in parts of Louisiana or St. Pierre & Miquelon, of course. Besides being a part of the same three countries, these areas are heavily influential in each other’s history and contemporary identities. They receive many immigrants amongst one another and share languages, slang, music, and cuisine across borders. 

Indigenous cultures are also still around, though much subtler than in the Neotropical Realm. Their cultures are more visible in the Western United States and Mexico or rural Canada. This is also true of the Arctic where the many Inuit peoples have a distinct culture and identity. Match that with Greenland where there’s this funky mix of Inuit and Danish cultural cues. 


We’ve come to the end of the Nearctic Realm, but there’s so much more to explore. What other cultural ties do the people of this realm share? Are there any other cool animals, plants, or geographic features you can think of in this realm? Had you heard about the Nearctic before? Tell us in the comments!

Follow if you enjoyed the article and feel free to read more posts. Thanks as always for stopping by. Sending you good vibrations. Peace!

**Ask me more or collaborate with CulSurf: tietewaller@gmail.com; Give Me a Shout!

Places in Yukon – Gallery Images, Videos, & Profile | Earth’s Face 🇨🇦

territorial Flag of Yukon, Canada
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YUKON

English: /YOO-kahn/

Listen

French: /yu-KON/

Listen

Canadian Provinces and Territories, the Yukon highlighted in red
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satellite map image of the Yukon territory
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Name Origin

after the Yukon River, possibly from the Gwich’in language for “white water river” or “great river

Population

~ 42,600

Main Languages

Predominantly English (~ 83%). The next most spoken language is French, also an official language in the territory (~ 4%). Both languages are spoken in local Canadian varieties.

Capital & Largest City

Whitehorse

Location

Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic and Pacific Mountains regions. Has some Arctic Ocean coastline to the north and borders the United States (Alaska) to the west.

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Part of Canada’s Pacific Cordillera mountains, Taiga Cordillera mountains, and taiga plains, with some Arctic tundra. Home to Mount Logan, Canada’s tallest mountain (2nd tallest in North America).


Gallery Images & Videos: Places in Yukon

totem poles made of hubcaps in Yukon, Canada
JLS Photography – Alaska
emerald lake with mountain backdrop, popular place in Yukon
Emerald Lake – JAYRNIV
dunes at the Carcross Desert, southern Yukon, Canada
Carcross Desert – teamscuby
monument of an indigenous person canoeing at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre – Travis
the SS Klondike in the snow in Whitehorse, Canada
SS Klondike – Gareth Sloan
northern lights (aurora borealis) in Whitehorse, famous sight in Yukon territory
Whitehorse – Studiolit
a bend at Miles Canyon, outside of Whitehorse
Miles Canyon – Timothy Neesam
a bend at Miles Canyon, a place in Yukon
Diego Delso
high snowy mountain peaks with sun rays reflecting, part of Yukon
Richard Droker
mountains, forests and a winding river in Kluane National Park and Reserve, place in Yukon
Kluane National Park and Reserve – Kalen Emsley
a wood stump on the stony shores of a river ahead of mountains in Kluane National Park and Reserve, the Yukon
WherezJeff
downtown hotel in Dawson City on a snowy day, northwestern Canada
Dawson City – Arthur T. LaBar
person walking on the road on the scenic Dempster Highway, Yukon
Dempster Highway – Joseph
mountain crest in the fields of Ivvavik National Park, a place in Yukon
Ivvavik National Park – Daniel Case
rugged beds of a river in the landscapes of Ivvavik National Park, in the Yukon
Daniel Case
flooded wetlands of Vuntut National Park, a place in Yukon
Vuntut National Park – Крис Кирзик
a section of a river in snowy frozen landscape at dawn in Yukon
Keith Williams
a section of the Yukon River in a snowy landscape with the sun barely over the horizon
Yukon River – Keith Williams
a boat/ canoe on a wide section of the Yukon River, Canada
Camera Eye Photography
white clouded mountains towering over a dark forest in the Yukon, near the Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway – Goran Vlacic
a section of the Alaska Highway with forests and snowy mountain backdrops in the Yukon
JLS Photography – Alaska
a dog sled team running in the snowy landscapes of the Yukon, Canada
Arthur T. LaBar
a unique black bear in the flowery fields of Yukon Wildlife Preserve, place in Canada
Yukon Wildlife Preserve – Keith Williams
a sweeping valley landscape in the Tombstone Territorial Park, a place in Yukon
Tombstone Territorial Park – Bo Mertz
bright purple/pink flowers on the shores of the Alsek River with mountains behind, the Yukon
Alsek River – zug zwang
moose antlers left ahead of the curving Alsek River in Yukon
zug zwang
a bald eagle perched near the Tatshenshini River in Yukon, Canada
Tatshenshini River – Matt Zimmerman
snowy mountains seen from the inside of a small passenger plane, flying over the Yukon
Jack Church

Places in the Northwest Territories | Gallery, Videos, & Profile 🇨🇦

Flag of Northwest Territories, Canada
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NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

les Territoires du Nord-Ouest

Canadian Provinces and Territories
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Name Origin

when Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory were joined, they became the North-West Territories, describes their geographic location in Canada

Population

~ 45,000

Main Languages

Predominantly English (~ 78%). Dogrib or Tłı̨chǫ is the most prevalent indigenous language (~ 4%). Other official languages are: Chipewyan, Cree, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, and South Slavey. Mostly spoken by small portions of the population.

Capital & Largest City

Yellowknife

Location

Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic region. Mostly located on the mainland with some territory on large islands in the Arctic Archipelago. Has coastline on the Arctic Ocean.

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Parts of Canada’s taiga (mostly plains and shield forests), Taiga Cordillera mountains, and Arctic tundra. Major lakes include Great Slave Lake (deepest in North America) and Great Bear Lake (largest lake fully within Canada).


Gallery Images & Videos: Places in the Northwest Territories

northern lights (aurora borealis) in the snowy forests near Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife – kwan fung
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Great Slave Lake shores and blue skies in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Jack L
Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve, place in the Northwest Territories, Canada
Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve – Mike Beauregard
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exterior Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Inuvik, on a snowy day
Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Inuvik – dawn
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Nionep'ene Lake in Naats'ihch'oh National Park, place in Northwest Territories, Canada
Nááts’įhch’oh National Park – Paul Gierszewski
Hornaday River and canyon in Tuktut Nogait National Park, place in the Northwest Territories
Tuktut Nogait National Park – Paul Gierszewski
jagged ice patterns on the frozen surface of Great Slave Lake, Northern Canada
Great Slave Lake – Phillip Grondin
a sunset / sunrise over the frozen expanse of Great Slave Lake, place in the Northwest Territories
buck82
landscape of scattered forest and plains in the taiga of Northwest Territories, Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park – Dru!
autumn colors and forests along the banks of a river in Northwest Territories, Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park
Scott Lough
taiga plains of the Northwest Territories, with flooded sections and lakes, near the Dempster Highway
Tania Liu
falls colors of grasses and lichens on the rolling hills of Northwestern Canada near the Dempster Highway
near the Dempster Highway – Tania Liu
bison walking near the water and a forest in Fort Providence, town in the Northwest Territories
Scott Lough
town of Fort Providence covered in snow with a church on the side, place in Northwestern Territories, Canada
Fort Providence – Leslie Philipp
tepees on the snow-covered shores of Great Bear Lake, northwestern Canada
Great Bear Lake – Sahtu Wildlife
rushing waterfall at Twin Gorges Territorial Park, Hay River, a place in the Northwest Territories
Twin Gorges Territorial Park, Hay River – Mike Tidd
an iceberg with ship remains ahead of it in the Northwest Passage of Arctic Canada
Northwest Passage – Roderick Eime
icebreaker ships sailing through the icy waters of the Northwest Passage, a section of the Northwest Territories, Canada
Coast Guard News
a colorful purple and pink sunset over the Mackenzie River near Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories
Mackenzie River – Fort Simpson Chamber of C
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope - interior, a place in Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories of Canada
Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Good Hope – mattcatpurple

Places in Newfoundland and Labrador – Profile & Gallery 🇨🇦

A quick profile, images, and recommended videos to discover Newfoundland & Labrador


Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador

NEWFOUNDLAND and LABRADOR

/NEW-fen-land-AND-LA-bruh-dor/ * /NOO-fin-lend-AND-LA-bri-dor/

listen

Canadian Provinces and Territories map, Newfoundland and Labrador highlighted in red
satellite map of Newfoundland and Labrador province

Name origin

from earlier name Terra Nova, “new land” in Portuguese and Latin, later adapted into English as Newfoundland

for Portuguese sailor, João Fernandes Lavrador

Population

<520,000

Main Languages

Predominantly English (~ 97%). Local variety is known as Newfoundland English.

Capital & Largest City

Saint John’s

Location

Eastern Canada (easternmost province) and part of the Atlantic region. Mostly located on the island of Newfoundland and the mainland section called Labrador, with many smaller islands.

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Parts of Canada’s Eastern boreal shield forests (especially on Newfoundland), taiga forests (especially in Labrador), and Arctic Cordillera mountains. The Smallwood Reservoir system in Labrador is the largest body of water.


Gallery of Places in Newfoundland & Labrador

view of St. John's, capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, at night with lights reflecting on the sea
St. John’s – Erik Mclean
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basilica in the city of St. John's, Newfoundland
Russ Quinlan
colorful houses and buildings viewed from across the harbor in St. John's, Canada
Dheera Venkatraman
the harbor and colorful architecture on the hills of St. John's city, Newfoundland and Labrador
Asmaa Dee
panorama of Signal Hill with views of the ocean, St. John's, Newfoundland
Signal Hill – Zach Bonnell
view of Signal Hill from a hillside and near pine tree, Newfoundland
Seán Ó Domhnaill
view of icebergs and the sea from the coast of Twillingate, eastern Canada
Twillingate – Robert Ciavarro
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odd-shaped black home in the rocky fields of Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Fogo Island – Timothy Neesam
lone house at sundown surrounded by wet plains and tides, Fogo Island
Timothy Neesam
stilted inn on a sunny day with views of the fields and ocean on Fogo Island, eastern Newfoundland
Zach Bonnell
the red and brown stones and snowy mountains with a stream and waterfall, the tablelands in Newfoundland and Labrador
the Tablelands – mrbanjo1138
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Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park, iconic place in Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park – VisitGrosMorne
a sod-covered wooden chapel in Norstead near L'Anse aux Meadows
Norstead near L’Anse aux Meadows – Douglas Sprott
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lighthouse and rocky shores at Capr Bonavista, Newfoundland
Cape Bonavista – Paul Gorbould
dark clouds at sunset in the town of Bonavista, a place in Newfoundland and Labrador
town of Bonavista – Jamie McCaffrey
church in the town of Trinity, eastern Newfoundland, Canada
town of Trinity – Robert Ciavarro
rocky shores and crashing waves on the Bonavista Peninsula
Bonavista Peninsula – Gary Paakkonen
man hiking in the forests along the Bonavista Peninsula with rocky cliffs and formations in the ocean ahead, Newfoundland
Wallace Howe
Atlantic puffins on the grass in Witless Bay, place in Newfoundland
Witless Bay – Richard Droker
waterfall falling from the forest into the ocean over red cliffs, Witless Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador province
Jim Sorbie
grassy cliffs and bird sanctuary overlooking the ocean, Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland
Cape St. Mary’s – mrbanjo1138
view from canon at Castle Hill overlooking the town of Placentia, place in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Castle Hill, town of Placentia – Vicky TH
a bridge over a grassy creek in Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland
Terra Nova National Park – Product of Newfoundland
arched rock formation on the pebbled beaches of Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland in Canada
Arches Provincial Park – Michael Leland
twisted tress and forests overlooking the green waters and beach of coastal Newfoundland
Zach Bonnell
lighthouse and buildings at Port-au-Choix, Newfoundland coast
Port au Choix – Rod Brazier
lighthouse and trail up the hill in Cape Spear, place in Newfoundland and Labrador
Cape Spear – jessica
whale tail and ocean ahead of the shores in Battle Harbour, Labrador
Battle Harbour – echo8
historic lighthouse on a cloudy day in Point Amour, place in Labrador, Canada
Point Amour – Kerron L
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the rushing tides of Churchill Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador province
Churchill Falls – Douglas Sprott
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towering mountains  and fjords viewed from above in Torngat Mountains National Park, place in northern Labrador, Canada
Torngat Mountains National Park – DJANDYW.COM AKA NOBO

Profile & Gallery of Places in Alberta (Calgary – Edmonton) | Earth’s Face

CALGARY

/KAL-ger-ee/ * /KAL-guh-ree/

listen

EDMONTON

/ED-muhn-TUHN/ * /ED-min-TIN/

listen

satellite map of the city of Calgary, Alberta
satellite map of the city of Edmonton, Canada

Name origin

Edmonton: originally Fort Edmonton, a fur trading post, named after Edmonton, England, the birthplace of a founding governor, Sir James Winter Lake

Calgary: named for the hamlet of Calgary, Scotland

Population

Edmonton: City <981,000 – Metro <1,321,000

Calgary: City <1,336,000 – Metro <1,392,000

Location

Edmonton: Central Alberta, aspen parklands region

Calgary: Southern Alberta, foothills/prairies region

Calgary is along the Bow River and the Elbow River. Edmonton is along the North Saskatchewan River.


Cities of Alberta Image Gallery: Calgary & Edmonton

a main square with colonial buildings and horse drawn carriage, Calgary's Heritage Park and village
Heritage Park, Calgary – Bernard Spragg
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the wonderland sculpture in downtown Calgary, Alberta
Wonderland sculpture – Davide Colonna
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a scene with skyscrapers and the wonderland sculpture on the streets of downtown Calgary, Canada
Nataliia Kvitovska
interior view of the Peace Bridge in Calgary
Peace Bridge, Denisse Leon
the Peace Bridge at evening over the Bow River leading to downtown Calgary
Robert Montgomery
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footbridge from Prince's Island Park with view of the Calgary skyline
Prince’s Island Park – Richard Carter
the Calgary Tower at night with lights, Alberta, Canada
Calgary Tower – asweseeit.ca CANADA
riders on horseback holding Canadian flags during the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede – Leif Harboe
bronco riding at a rodeo during the Calgary Stampede
Sean Robertson
exterior of knox united church in downtown Calgary
Knox United Church – Bill Longstaff
ceiling of the chinese cultural centre in Calgary
Chinese Cultural Centre – Ricky Leong
a penguin swimming in water at the calgary zoo
Calgary Zoo – Bernard Spragg
black and white of studio bell centre, a place in calgary
Studio Bell – Michael Brager Photography
an autumn trail in fish creek provincial park, Canada's biggest urban park
Fish Creek Provincial Park – Bernard Spragg
fort calgary exterior in the snow
Fort Calgary – Bernard Spragg
the devonian gardens within the CORE shopping centre, Calgary, Alberta
Devonian Gardens – M Cheung
CORE Shopping Centre exterior and busy street in central Calgary
CORE Shopping Centre – Andres Alvarado
the Central Library in Calgary interior architecture
Central Library – Bilal Karim
view of Calgary skyline from the Bow River
Bow River – Bernard Spragg
stephen avenue in the evening with some light decorations, Calgary
Stephen Ave – Ayrcan
walking bridge over a wetland area in outer Calgary
Ahmed Zalabany
street art designs on a building in Calgary, CANAda
Toni Reed
interesting buildings and skyscrapers from street view at night in Calgary
Ryunosuke Kikuno
Hawrelak Park and Edmonton skyline
Hawrelak Park – Kurayba
neon sign museum at dusk in Edmonton, Alberta
Neon Sign Museum – WherezJeff
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pyramids of muttart conservatory in Edmonton, Canada
Muttart Conservatory – Mack Male
old streetcar and building in Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park – Richard Laperche
west edmonton mall interior with bridge and canal, major place in Alberta
West Edmonton Mall – GoToVan
Art Gallery of Alberta exterior cool architecture
Art Gallery of Alberta – IQRemix
Art Gallery of Alberta interior cool architecture, Edmonton
IQRemix
Royal Alberta Museum exterior
Royal Alberta Museum – Doug Zwick
view of Edmonton skyline from across north saskatchewan river
North Saskatchewan River Valley – Kurayba
North Saskatchewan River Valley at evening with Edmonton skyline
WherezJeff
ice castles exhibition in Edmonton
Ice Castles – Jason Woodhead
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Alberta Legislature Building with lit Christmas Tree and decorations in front at evening, Edmonton
Alberta Legislature Building – WherezJeff
view of downtown Edmonton from under a bridge across the north saskatchewan river at night
WherezJeff
North Saskatchewan River at evening with sun reflecting on the water
North Saskatchewan River – Richard Bukowski
University of Alberta Botanic Garden from bench view across a pond
University of Alberta Botanic Garden – Janusz Sliwinski
central city of Edmonton at sundown with bridge
Alex Pugliese
blue lights reflecting on the inside of a bridge passageway in Edmonton, Canada
Alex Pugliese
snow-covered walkway view from a bridge in the morning in Edmonton
Corey Tran
man on the steps in downtown edmonton, alberta at night with lights and christmas decor
Redd

Profile & Cool Places in Alberta (Rural) | Earth’sFace 🇨🇦

ALBERTA

/al-BER-duh/ * /al-BER-tuh/

provincial Flag of Alberta
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satellite map image of Alberta
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, map of Alberta province highlighted in red
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Name origin

for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, a daughter of British Queen Victoria

Population

<4,371,000

Main languages

Predominantly English (c. 92%)

Capital

*Edmonton

Biggest City

Calgary

Location

Western Canada

Borders the United States to the south

Biogeography

Nearctic Realm

Part of Canada’s boreal forests and taiga, prairies, western mountains and forests (especially the Rockies), aspen parklands, and some dry steppe and highlands (especially around the badlands). Has part of large Lake Athabasca.


Places in Alberta Gallery

rock formation on a morning in the plains of Alberta
Bobbijogrunewald
canola fields in Alberta, Canada
Darren Kirby
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes
Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes – Diana Robinson
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mountain and lake setting in Waterton Lakes region, Alberta
Jan Mosimann
hoodoos in the badlands of Drumheller, Canada
Hoodoos in Drumheller – Robert Montgomery
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dinosaur skeleton at the Royal Tyrell Museum, place in Alberta
Royal Tyrell Museum – Wilson Hui
Kakwa Falls in the Kakwa Wildlands provincial park, Alberta
Kakwa Falls – Ken Sawich
Maligne Canyon from inside looking up, Canada
Maligne Canyon – Keith Roper
Maligne Canyon during winter with frozen cascades, place in Alberta
Si Longworth Photography
Valley of the Ten Peaks, Jasper National Park
Valley of the Ten Peaks – Matt Thomason
a forested valley covered in snow in Jasper National Park, Alberta
WherezJeff
mountain peak covered in forest, Canadian Rockies
WherezJeff
a lake surrounded by forest and mountains in Alberta
Jasper National Park – Bernd Thaller
green trees near lake under blue sky during daytime, setting in Alberta, Canada
sterlinglanier Lanier
serene lake and mountain backdrop in Banff National Park
Mahesh Gupta
waterfall in Johnston Canyon, Banff, Alberta
Johnston Canyon – Janani Ramanath
frozen falls in a snowy setting of the Canadian Rockies
John Bakator
large cave and rock formation in winter Alberta, Johnston Canyon
David Kovalenko
two jack lake and mountain backdrop in the evening in Banff National Park
Two Jack Lake – Geoff Pinkney
Minnewanka lake and snowy mountains in Alberta, Canada
Minnewanka Lake – Natalie Toombs
Bow Lake in Banff, western Canada
Bow Lake – Bernd Thaller
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Peyto Lake and forested mountains in sunny setting of Alberta
Peyto Lake – Pascal Bernardon
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies
Moraine Lake – Jacky Huang
bridge over a curving river and plains setting in Lethbridge, city in Alberta
town of Lethbridge – Ryan Reynolds
historical mural art in the city of Medicine Hat, western Canada
city of Medicine Hat – Kevin Dooley
large teepee structure in Medicine Hat, Alberta
Janusz Sobolewski
falls and canyon in Willmore Wilderness Park
Willmore Wilderness Park – Richard Bukowski
columbia icefield and glaciers in western Alberta province
Columbia Icefield – Gary Campbell-Hall
cascading waterfalls along the icefields parkway in Alberta
Delaney Boyd
road on the icefields parkway leading to a massive snowy mountain in the distance, Canada
Icefields Parkway – Floris Siegers
mountains and blue skies in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – JD Hascup
lake and mountains under a blue and purple evening sky in Kananaskis Country, place in Alberta
Kananaskis Country – JD Hascup
mountains and forest landscap in kananaskis country, a region of the Canadian rockies
Gaylon Yancy
highway under towering white mountain landscape near Canmore, Alberta
Canmore – Thiago Terleski
a wood bison walking in the snow near elk island, Alberta
Justin Hu
elk island seen from the shores at sundown, place in western Canada
Elk Island – Ezra Jeffrey-Comeau

**A Special Thanks: this post was made possible by the amazing and generous Creative Commons and Free Stock photographers out there. Thank you for making your work and the amazing places you capture accessible to the rest of the world!

Bio-Realms – A Better Way Than Continents to ‘Divide’ the World?

Continents are confusing …

a world map with question marks over it, showing the confusion that comes with the current system of continents
original by Brett Zeck

There’s an ongoing question that pokes at the side of so many people in this world. Should I take my shower before or after work? Woah, not that! You dirty minds. While either way you choose has its benefits, I was thinking about the continents. Most people agree that there are seven continents … no wait, there are definitely five … maybe three real ones and a handful of small ones? 

You see the issue; it’s hard to define what a continent really is. Is it a large landmass completely separate from all others like a social-distancing master? Or, is a continent just any big chunk of land that generally fits together, separated only by a thin isthmus or huge range of mountains, for example? I get the feeling this was so much easier back in the Pangaea days.

Read more:

I’m not here to prove what is a continent and what isn’t. Instead of trying to define them, we can look at what could be a much better way of “dividing” our world — if we must divide it at all. This potentially better system is by way of the bio-realm. But first, why is the continent system so jacked up in the first place?

Why is the continent system jacked up?

For one, it’s hard to tell what a continent is and how it should be divided. The names of continents we have now were mostly named by outsiders, with proposed etymologies coming mostly from European or Middle Eastern origins. Keep in mind the names of some of these places are so archaic that they can get seriously hard to trace.

Some factors that make the continents confusing can be:

  1. There’s such a diversity of cultures and demographics on any given continent that an umbrella term can’t capture them all (“African” for Tunisia and the Congo, “Asian” for India and Japan)
  2. Many countries fall into a weird buffer zone (Is Egypt African or Asian? Is Armenia Asian or European? What is the Caribbean? The Middle East? Oceania?)
  3. Many countries can’t agree on what the real continents are anyway (North and South America, or just America? Is it Eurasia, or maybe Afro-Eurasia? Australia, Oceania, or Australasia? Good-ness!)

That is pretty jacked up. So, what are the bio-realms? Why might they be better than continents?

Into a new “realm”

Biogeographic realms, in this circumstance, are a way to look at the world by dividing it among major ecological and geographical areas. This means places that share a somewhat continuous ecology (plant and animal life, in most cases, climate and habitat types too). Plus, don’t you just love the word “realms?” It sounds like we’re traveling into some kind of fantasy dimension. 


Okay, so the bio-realms are:

  • Nearctic Realm (North America excluding the tropics)
  • Neotropical Realm (all of the Americas in or south of the tropics, i.e. Central & South America + the Caribbean)
  • Palearctic Realm (all of Europe and Asia north of the tropics, including Northern Africa)
  • Afrotropical Realm (all of Africa in or south of the tropics, including the tropics of Arabia and the Arabian Sea coast west of Pakistan)
  • Indo-Malayan Realm (all of Asia in or south of the tropics, going east from Pakistan)
  • Australasian Realm (Australia, New Zealand, and Melanesia, including Papua and Maluku Islands)
  • Oceanian Realm (Micronesia and Polynesia, generally the Asia-Pacific region)
  • Antarctic Realm (Antarctica and the surrounding seas)

*I like to separate between West and East Palearctic since the region is so huge, but that’s personal preference, not scientific or anything

One cool thing about this system of looking at the world is that it is more fluid. For example, Mauritius and Madagascar can be considered Afrotropical in terms of geography but Indo-Malayan in terms of culture and history. On a broader note, this grouping can help people get a truer sense of what the world really looks like. The bio-realms are intended to be solely geographical, but without really trying, they pretty well represent most of the historic and cultural interactions that people have had over the millennia too. 

For instance, Morocco had a lot more interaction and influence in nearby Spain than it did in faraway Uganda. Pretty much all of Latin America — and the Caribbean with which it shares many similarities — are in or south of the tropics anyway. South and Southeast Asia have been interacting with and have a lot more in common with each other than they do with the rest of Asia. North African countries have a lot more shared history and identity with Europe and the Middle East than they do with Sub-Saharan Africa in general. 

Read more:

Of course, the world is globalizing and interconnectivity between cultures is constantly on the rise. Even still, the divisions of bio-realms make a lot more sense when grouping places together based on shared geography, climate, and cultures. 

Like with the continents, there are definitely problematic zones that aren’t so easy to categorize. Places like Melanesia, the Sahara, and the Himalayas are still tricky because the cultural and geographic lines aren’t so clear-cut from one side to the other. Several countries like Mexico, China, and Indonesia would fall into two realms, while countries like Pakistan fall into three. That could get a little weird. Even with these issues, I appreciate that the bio-realms at least show how there are great levels of diversity within those countries, amplifying their special roles as doorways between realms. (See, isn’t this fun?!)

Going back to the purpose of this article, the bio-realm system wouldn’t be a way to divide people but to more accurately view the world the way it really is. They are not supposed to be a sharp clear line of separation, but rather a wide fuzzy line that combines similar areas into large general categories. The system is much more accurate at representing the world’s actual geography, somewhat better at grouping the world’s people, but still flawed like any other manmade labeling system.


What do you think about the bio-realms? Did you understand this way of dividing the world? Could it be valuable to utilize this system and the continental system together? Or would you rather stick with the good old continents? 

Thank you for reading, and take good care of each other, whatever realm you reside in! 

Contact or collaborate: tietewaller@gmail.com, or Give me a shout!

About Ireland 🇮🇪 Special in the English World

Ireland stands out in the English-speaking world

That’s right! Talking about the green island — well, green, white and orange, if we want to get technical. Ireland is one of the most recognizable and influential English-speaking countries out there. Here we’ll explore some of the reasons behind that bold statement. We’ll also take a quick look at the geography, culture, and other aspects of this modern Celtic nation. Let’s do it!

Read more: the Actual English World; Geography

Profile & Stuff — Geography of Ireland

One thing that can get confusing about Ireland is … well, what it is. There’s the island (and smaller isles) of Ireland, yes, which holds two different countries on it. One — the one we’re talking about — is the Republic of Ireland, or Poblacht na hÉireann if you want to get fancy (we’ll just call it Ireland for simplicity’s sake). The other is the United Kingdom, which lays claim on the island by way of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland itself is a bit confusing, not necessarily a country, but maybe a special county, a semi-autonomous region, we don’t know for sure. 

Anyway, Ireland (the republic) is a bit easier to define. Unlike its Great British neighbors, Ireland is still in the EU. The rest of the UK sits just across the Irish Sea and the two entities have impacted each other for millennia now. Don’t check the watch on that one. 

Ireland’s capital is Dublin, which is also the biggest urban area. Even though about 40% of Ireland’s people live in this one region, there are still other major towns like Cork, Limerick, and Galway. Irish people themselves are pretty homogeneous, being in not too big of a place. Still, immigrant communities are present and well on the island, with many coming from other parts of Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Brazil of all places.

rock formation beside sea under white sky, cliffs of Moher on Irish coast
Cliffs of Moher – Henrique Craveiro

Historically, Ireland has been divided into provinces. Namely, they are Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Today they don’t serve much of any administrative purpose, although they do hold value in other ways. Locally, the country is divided into 31 entities; that’s 26 counties, 3 cities, and 2 city-and-counties.

The climate in Ireland is temperate and maritime with mostly mild, cool weather. It can get super rainy but isn’t super snowy. These were great conditions for vast forests, although most of those have been cut down. Most the landscape these days is hilly and pastoral with green fields. A majority of the land is set aside for agriculture. There’s a general central plain that culminates in more highland areas around the edges, especially in the west. Much of the coast is rocky with cliffs. Cliff diving, anyone?

Irish Identity

What’s the craic, lads? C’mon, give me your best Irish accent! We all know it when we hear it, and that’s due in part to the iconic culture of this place. Common social values in Ireland have to do with their unique sense of humor, storytelling, and folklore, an interest in politics and philosophy, admiration for wit, open expression, and the arts, as well as a pride for (and conflict with) the tricky history of the nation. Who really wants to bring up Protestant discrimination, foreign conquest and assimilation, or the several devastating famines? Not me, my friend. 

This sense of pride, though, is one of the very reasons so many Irish abroad are quick to claim their origins. Often, even those with distant Irish descendants are happy to claim where their ancestry. This could be due in part to Irish last names being pretty easily identifiable. 

A lot of them come from Gaelic origin, with names like O’Reilly, O’Hara, MacDonald, McAvoy, Murphy, Flanagan, Kennedy, etc. Oh, and the Normans had something to do with it (Kilpatrick, Kilkenny, Fitzpatrick, Fitzgerald), and the Welsh (Walsh). But hey, there’s a lot more to it. Some of the most iconic parts of Irish culture come from Gaelic roots, such as certain musical styles, dance, dress, and sports. I mean, hurling and Gaelic football are mostly an Ireland thing.

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Farming and small-town life are also significant aspects of Irish identity, given all those agricultural fields we mentioned earlier. Counties play a role in many people’s identities, shaping things like accent and team affiliations, among others. Dublin is a major cultural and arts center, tied in as one of Europe’s most important financial and technology hubs too. It’s also had a lot more English influence over the years as compared to rural Ireland, so Anglo-Irish ID is a bit stronger than elsewhere in the country. 

Irish Folklore

cute lady dressed in St. Patrick's Day outfit as a leprechaun, Irish folklore is known all over the English world
Respect the Lep – pxfuel

Irish folklore has also played a huge role in popular world folklore, especially in places like the U.S. and UK. Just think of how big Saint Patrick’s Day and shamrocks are outside of Ireland. Other major characters popularized (at least partially) by Irish storytellers include fairies, pixies, mermaids, the shapeshifting Pooka, the headless horseman, Dullahan, and most noteworthy of all, yes, leprechauns! Don’t know why I got all excited on that one.

Last one here, I wanted to mention Samhain (Saow-in). This traditional Celtic festival where turnips were used to scare away bad spirits would later evolve into today’s Halloween. Most of us use pumpkins instead of turnips now, but popular media have brought this spooky celebration all over the world. And it all stems back to pagan rituals. Imagine that.

Irish = Catholic?

After Gaelic culture, few things have influenced Irish identity and development like Catholicism. We know there’s a whole lot of controversy here, but what can I say? This Christian denomination is so crucial that it has basically been used as a major distinguisher between who is an “Irish national” and who is an “Irish Brit,” or just “Brit.” Irish from the republic are nominally a lot more Catholic, while those in Northern Ireland are a lot more Protestant. It could seem like a trivial difference, but centuries of squabbling and prejudice have really driven the fork deep between the two sides. 

Even though it’s been a major issue, on and off, many Northern Irish still consider themselves as simply “Irish.” There’s steady talk of Irish unification too. I don’t know enough about it to voice an opinion, and I’m sure not everyone is open to that happening. Still, it shows how there is some mutual respect and cooperation between the two sides of the island. 

The color green is often associated with the country on an international level. Despite conveniently being the color of clovers, it also is associated with the Catholic Church within Ireland (orange is associated with the Protestants). 

Speaking the Gaelic

Irish Gaelic or Gaelige is a co-official language with English. It used to be the main language of the people up to about a hundred or so years ago. At different points in history, Ireland was under the control of Great Britain or England. The most recent time during the Industrial Revolution saw a rise in literacy and other factors that grew the English-speaking population substantially, kind of merking those poor Gaelic speakers. Well, not the speakers themselves, but you get it.

Nowadays, Gaelic has struggled to keep up since many don’t really see a need to learn it. Most fluent speakers happen to be older or from rural areas where Gaelic culture is still strong. Cities or areas that have significant amounts of Gaelic speakers are called Gaeltacht, I’ve gathered. Since it’s not really spoken outside of Ireland, and only spoken by a small percentage within its own country, you can understand why it’s a hard one to sell, especially to the youngsters. 

Still, the language is mandatory in schools and most people know at least as much Gaelic as I know Spanish from my high school classes. There’s also a sense of revival for Gaelic in some communities, much like there is for lots of endangered languages around the globe. Despite not being fluently spoken by many, the language itself serves a sense of Celtic-rooted identity. 

Many words, idioms, and expressions have made their way into the local variety of English. The Irish accent, influenced by Gaelic tongues, Norman and Anglo-Saxon dialects, English, and the several other Gaelic and Brythonic languages nearby have all shaped each other and meshed to influence the local version of English we all recognize today. Cool stuff. 

To hear some people speaking in Gaelic and with Irish accents, watch and listen below!

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Further Reading

What makes Saskatchewan unique? – 10 Cool Features 🇨🇦

double rainbows over Lake Diefenbaker, rural Saskatchewan
Lake Diefenbaker – Olivia Kulbida

Heading out to the middle of the prairie, this is Saskatchewan’s time. A Canadian province known for flat open terrain and farming, this place definitely has a lot more specialties than milk and bread. Read a quick profile and then enjoy about 10 cool things that make Saskatchewan a unique place.

SASKATCHEWAN: Quick Profile

Canadian Provinces and Territories map, saskatchewan highlighted in red
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road map of Saskatchewan
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Flag of Saskatchewan
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Cities: Regina is the capital; Saskatoon is the biggest city

Location: the middle of the three Prairie provinces in the interior of central Canada, far from any oceans; it borders the U.S. to the south

Read more: about Canada; about Manitoba

Climate: mostly humid continental (humid hot summers and snowy cold winters) with Subarctic climate in the north and some semi-arid steppe (dry plains) features in the southwest; the weather usually comes in extremes with particularly warm summers and intensely cold winters throughout; weather can be very windy with tornadoes and storms being fairly common, although Saskatchewan gets more sunlight than any other province

Environment: mostly prairies and plains in the south with some highlands; mostly boreal forests and taiga to the north with over 100 thousand lakes, Lake Athabasca is the largest; some tundra in the far north and some large areas of sand dunes

Name: it was once a part of Britain’s North West Territories; named after the Saskatchewan River, from the Cree language meaning “swift flowing river”

1. Because of Grasslands National Park

landscape of Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan
Cypress Hills – Erik Lizee / Eriklizee

What is it?:

Grasslands is a national park in southern Saskatchewan near the U.S. border. It preserves lots of prairies and rolling Great Plains landscapes, as well as the range critters.

Places and features:

Wildlife and hiking; Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with some highlands and collections of dinosaur fossils

2. Because of Moose Jaw

mac the moose statue in Moose Jaw, Canada
Mac the Moose – Lisa

What is that?:

While not a literal Moose Jaw, this place is a small city in rural Saskatchewan. Despite its size, it has a nicely infused natural landscape and some unique experiences throughout.

Places and features:

Tunnels of Moose Jaw, tunnel tours that explore parts of the city’s underground past such as prohibition and Chinese immigration; Wakamow Valley, urban park; the Western Development Museum, exploring how the West was won; Mac the Moose, a giant moose statue; Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa, a luxurious spa with a big geothermal pool

Discover: Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours; Temple Gardens

3. Because of Regina

prince edward building in Regina, Canada
Prince Edward Building – Grahampurse

What is it?:

Well, Regina (Reh-jai-na) is the capital and one of the main cultural hubs in the whole province. The city hosts several events and festivals along with some beautiful urban scenery. It may not be the most populous city in Saskatchewan, but it doesn’t miss by much

wascana lake and park in the wascana centre, near central city Regina
Wascana Lake – Tintaggon

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Places and features:

Saskatchewan Legislative Building; RCMP Heritage Centre, dedicated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with festivals and service ceremonies; the Government House; MacKenzie Art Gallery; Royal Saskatchewan Museum; Saskatchewan Science Centre; Wascana Centre, a huge urban lake with an even bigger park surrounding the city center and provincial buildings; Hotel Saskatchewan, offers historic interactions with a step back into the prohibition era; Victoria Park

4. Because of Saskatoon

Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon
Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River – Kyla Duhamel

What is it?:

You know! Saskatoon is the biggest city, or most populous I should say, in the province. Similar to Regina, it offers lots of cultural and culinary attractions mixed in with a beautiful natural landscape.

Places and features:

Forestry Farm Park & Zoo; Remai Modern, a cooly-designed modern art gallery; Western Development Museum, the largest of these in Saskatchewan; Ukrainian Museum of Canada, documenting Ukrainian heritage in the nation and one of the biggest ethnic minorities of Canada; South Saskatchewan River, a scenic river that runs through town, it shelters riverside green spaces like Rotary Park and Kiwanis Memorial Park; the Delta Bessborough Hotel

5. Because of the Trans-Canada Highway

yellow flowers cultivating in the qu'appelle valley, southeast Saskatchewan
Qu’Appelle Valley – Kjfmartin

What is it?:

This is basically what it sounds like. Within Saskatchewan, the Trans-Canada Highway takes drivers across pretty sweeping landscapes and through some interesting towns and provincial parks.

Places and features:

Qu’Appelle Valley, a stunning valley area with lakes and places like Echo Valley Provincial Park and Fort Qu’Appelle; Moose Mountain Provincial Park, several other towns and parks along the way

6. Because of its Unique Lakes

jackfish lake pier, Saskatchewan
Jackfish Lake – Kyla Duhamel

What are they?:

Saskatchewan, like much of Canada, is known for its many, many lakes. With so many of them, this province still has some that stand out from the rest.

Places and features:

Little Manitou Lake, a lake with a high salt concentration that allows for floating, it also hosts a resort and spa nearby; Lake Diefenbaker, an artificial lake or reservoir with interesting rock formations, cliffs, and a long shoreline; Jackfish Lake, with nearby Cochin Lighthouse (in the middle of the prairies!)

7. Because of Historic Towns & Forts