Terrain shapes and bedrock
Along the borders of France, a number of mountain regions rise: the Pyrenees in the south, the Alps, the Jurassic Mountains and the Vosges in the east. Highland areas are also found in the interior of southern France (the Central Massif), in Brittany and Normandy in the northwest (the Armorican massif) and in the northeast (the Ardennes).
The Central Massif (Massif Central) is the most prominent landform region. It comprises one-sixth of France’s surface and consists of a plateau-like highland surrounded by large river plains and streams. To the south is a large limestone plateau, Causses, with deep canyon formation. Along the south-eastern boundary of the Central Massif there are high ridges with steep slopes, the Cevenes, but also submerged streams in the northeast – southwest direction with sedimentary rocks and coal deposits.
The Armorican massif in northwestern France encompasses the highlands of Brittany and Normandy and was formed, like the Central Massif, during the Variskian mountain range. They reach a maximum of 417 m above sea level. The western part of the Ardennes in the border regions with Belgium consists of rocks soaked during the same period. This also applies to the asymmetrical mountain ridge of the Vosges, which, with a high slope in the east, borders the Rhine valley.
According to COUNTRYAAH, large plains and pelvic areas spread between the aforementioned highlands and the coast. The Paris basin is filled with sedimentary rocks from the Tertiary period and partly covered by fertile loess soil. The slightly inclined bedrock layers create a distinctive cuestatopography (see cuesta), mainly in the southeast. The Loire plain with France’s longest river Loire and the Aquitaine stream with the Garonne valley (see Garonne) is spreading in the southwest. Along the coast, an area of sand, dunes and marshland, Les Landes, has been created, now partly covered by pine forest. The southern plains include The Rhône-Saone sink, which opens into the Mediterranean with a triangular delta plain.
Among the young mountain ranges formed during the Alpine fold, the Pyrenees constitute a 450 km barrier to Spain. The Jura Mountains adjacent to Switzerland consist of pleated limestone. The highest point here is 1,723 m above sea level. The French Alps with Mont Blanc (4 807 m above sea level) form a natural barrier to the east.
Most of France has a warm, humid climate. About two-thirds of the country (the northern, western and central parts) is strongly characterized by the low pressure penetrating from the Atlantic.
Northwestern France has the most maritime climate with generally cool summers, mild winters and precipitation that can fall as rain throughout the year. The summer is considerably warmer and sunny in the southwestern parts of the country where the winter is also mild. The winter temperature in western France is 5–8 °C and in this area the summer temperature ranges from 17 °C in the north to 23 °C in the south.
In central and eastern France, the climate has a more continental character. Winters are cold with an average temperature of 2–5 °C and frost can occur for a couple of months with snow cover for several weeks. The summers are warmer than in the west and north. Permanent snow cover only occurs over 3,000 m above sea level. in the Alps and 3,200 meters above sea level. in the Pyrenees.
Southeastern France including Corsica has a Mediterranean-type climate with plenty of sun, both summer and winter. Summer is warm (average temperature 20-25 °C) and precipitation falls only very sparingly during the high summer months. The average temperature during the winter is 7–9 °C, but a cold, northern fall wind from the Central Massif, Mistral, blows occasionally and can lower the temperature so that frost formation occurs.
The annual rainfall in France is generally 700-1000 mm. The Paris basin and the Garonned Valley are among the driest parts and receive 500–800 mm per year, while the mountain areas and the Atlantic coast receive 1,500–2,000 mm per year.
Plant-and animal life
The nature of France is characterized by the Atlantic coast in the west, the snow-capped Pyrenees in the south, the Alps and the Jurassic mountains in the east and the Mediterranean in the south-east. The central massif is a welcome break in the otherwise heavily cultivated French countryside and the mountainous island of Corsica in the Mediterranean south-east if the French mainland offers a piece of unique scenery.
In eastern France, Europe’s highest mountain forms Mont Blanc and a number of large glaciers “roofs of Europe”. Just south of it lies the country’s oldest national park, Vanoise, which borders the Italian National Park Gran Paradiso. Here is one of Europe’s largest concentrations of alpine and gems. Other typical alps are lambs, king eagles, marmots, mountain owl, lion, wolf and alpapollo butterfly. The Vivan Androsace alpine is endemic to the Alps and one of the species that grows the highest of all.
At the far south-east is the Mercantour National Park, where the Mediterranean flora and fauna meet the alpine. Here, edelweiss and alpine groves do not grow far from stone oak and olive trees, and since the early 1990s the area is one of the first colonized by wolf from Italy. Today, around 50 wolves live within the boundaries of the national park.
Not far from Mercantour, the Rhone river flows into the Mediterranean and forms the Camargue, one of Europe’s most famous deltas. In saltwater lagoons liver flamingo and heron many species, such as silk heron, purple heron, cattle egret and squacco heron, find ideal conditions in the surrounding wetlands. Typical plants are glazed and tamarisk (Tamarix gallica). The Camargue is an important intermediate station for migratory birds while traveling between Europe and Africa, and during the winter months thousands of ducks, snouts, ticks and red-headed diving ducks findgood conditions. The Camargue is also famous for its semi-wild white horses and black bulls. In the nearby steppe area of La Crau you will find birds such as small stairs, white-beaked fly hen and thick foot.
As a mountainous high plateau, the Central Massif rises in the middle of France with its origins in more than 450 long-ago volcanoes. Famous is the Causse Mejean limestone plateau with a steppe-like fauna and flora, where a group of free-living Przewalski’s horses attract attention. Pictures of these horses can be found in the 33,000 year old cave paintings in the Chauvet in Ardèche. The species lived in these parts of Europe after the last ice age. The current horses are from zoos.
In the Central Massif also starts one of Europe’s longest and most valuable rivers – the Loire. It is still spared from power plant ponds, and Atlantic salmon and sea trout can walk freely more than 1,000 km from the Bay of Biscay to the source streams. Almost all of France’s fish species find a home here, including moths. Central Loire with its famous castles, vineyards and Forest d’Orlean – France’s largest contiguous forest area with oak, beech, pine, ash and clubs- has been set aside as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. South of the Loire outlet in the Atlantic is Gironde, where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers form a huge estuary. Here you will find the last outpost of disturbances, which were previously found across much of the continent. Gironde fish have recently been released in the Netherlands to start the re-colonization of the Rhine.
Where the Bay of Biscay meets the border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees start. One of the most well-known natural areas is the Parc National des Pyrénées, which borders the Ordesa/Monte Perdido National Park in Spain. Here, highly alpine species like lambs, masons, Iberian Capricorn, gems, marmots, and in the streams the rare bisexual beak. In the Pyrenees there are also the last remains of brown bears, which lead a conflict-filled life in areas with sheep farming. To improve the chances of the tribe’s survival, bears from Slovenia have been released, though with an uncertain future.
North of the Bay of Biscay, Brittany stands out its rocky coast in the Atlantic. In Asterix and Obelix classic homeland we find valuable coastal and marine areas with nesting seabirds such as gannets, puffins and razorbills, Europe’s largest area of great adult algae like kelp (Parc Marineland d’Iroise), Parc de Brière (France’s largest wetland after the Camargue) and large tidal zones around the famous Mont-Saint-Michel.
French Corsica north of Italian Sardinia represents a world of its own with dramatic cliffs and wooded mountains. The fauna includes special forms of red deer and mufflon sheep, Corsican nut awakening, Corsican fire salamanders, coastal nesting osprey and an isolated trunk of lamb lamb.
Between the Corsica and the nearby coastal sections of France and Italy, the Ligurian Sea is spreading. In order to protect a unique marine environment, a large marine reserve has been allocated – Pelagos. Here you will find one of Europe’s most important collections of dolphins (dolphin, striped dolphin, gray dolphin and boar), killer whales, and whales (herring, cask, humpback, Gervais’ beak, grind whale) together with swordfish, tuna, sharks and the giant devil this ray. The rich presence of shrimp or krill creates ideal feeding conditions for fish, dolphins and whales.
In France, there were nine national parks in 2012, some 50 regional national parks (mostly landscape protection) as well as a number of nature reserves and biotope conservation areas.
About 17% of the land area and 21% of the sea surface are protected. Because of France’s extensive possessions around the world, its territory encompasses a large biodiversity but also a high proportion of protected and threatened areas.
|Parc national des Cévennes
||Languedoc – Roussillon, Rhone-Alpes
|Parc national de la Guadeloupe
|Parc national des Écrins
||Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
|Parc national du Mercantour
|Parc national de Port-Cros
|Parc national des Pyrénées
|Parc national de la Vanoise
|Parc amazonas the guyane
|Parc national de la Réunion