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From north to south, Quebec takes in three main geographical regions: the Canadian Shield, the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Appalachian Mountains. Extending from the shores of the Canadian Arctic to the Laurentians, the Canadian Shield covers about 60 percent of the land mass and contains some of the world's oldest rocks. Permafrost reigns in the northern part of the Shield; only dwarf birches and lichen are able to grow there.
The St. Lawrence River
The province's dominant geographical feature, links the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The St. Lawrence Lowlands are dotted with more than a million lakes and rivers. Quebec's forests are equal in area to those of Sweden and Norway combined. To the south, the foothills of the Appalachians separate Quebec from the United States.
Québec exports 40 percent of its total production, mainly from the forest industry (printing, lumber and paper), mining (aluminum and iron ore) and transportation equipment manufacturing. Québec also exports electricity, engineering know-how, electronic products and telecommunications equipment. International exports now account for 20 percent of the province's gross domestic product.
Of a total population of over 7 million, roughly 6 million francophones are descended from colonists who came from France in the 17th and 18th centuries. English-speaking residents of Quebec are descended mainly from British immigrants, but also from other ethnic groups seeking a better life in North America. At present, there are more than 590 000 anglophones in Québec, most of whom live in the Montréal area.