|Marine||540||151||No||Hureau, J.-C. and T. Monod (eds.), 1979|
|Freshwater||98||25||No||Keith, P. and J. Allardi (coords.), 2001|
|Conservation||France has a highly diversified animal population, and about 40 per cent of Europe’s flora are found here. Forests and woodlands cover about one-quarter of the country, and nearly 10 per cent of the country is protected. Some forests have been damaged by acid rain. One and a half century of use of rivers as dams, canals and sewage disposal systems have rendered them badly polluted by sewage, and by industrial and agricultural waste. Some species more sensitive to the changes of their natural habitat have disappeared (@Aphanius iberus@ and @Valencia hispanica@) or have become rare. The continued decrease in some of these populations of freshwater species are due to five causes: 1. obstacles to fish migration, i.e., dams, amassing of large quantities of sediments near estuarine river mouths, water pumps; 2. habitat and nursery destruction, i.e., gravel diggings, water level control in dams, drought, rechanneling of water flow; 3. pollution, i.e., chemical and industrial (detergents, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers), thermal (from thermoelectric and nuclear plants) and organic (sediments or night soil from draining of ponds and dams); 4. fisheries; 5. alien species introductions and repopulation techniques. There are 25 species of freshwater fish listed as endangered species in Ref. 11941, all of them under some national or international protection directive. Alien species introduction directives are also in place to protect endemic species. Major efforts to improve water quality include building more treatment plants and imposing pollution charges. Fishing regulations are in place, e.g., it is completely prohibited to fish sturgeons; fishing is regulated by location, season, hours of the day, gear and fishing technique, quantity and size of fish caught such that a percentage of the catch should be released back to the water. However, these restrictions have not gone far in protecting fish, e.g., the alewife population from declining.|
|Geography and Climate||
The chief physiographic features of France are its natural eastern and southern boundaries, a south central plateau, and next to the plateau a vast region of rolling plains. A series of massive mountain ranges, including a number of ranges of the Alps and the Jura, form natural boundaries at the Franco-Italian and most of the Franco-Swiss borders. With flanking chains and foothills, these ranges dominate the area east of the south central plateau.
The Jura, on the Franco-Swiss boundary, reach an elevation of about 1,723 meters and delineate the eastern frontier of France from the eastern extension of the Rhône Valley to the Belfort Gap, the broad depression linking the basins of the Rhine and the Saône.
From the edge of the Belfort Gap to the northeastern corner of France, the Rhine forms the border between France and Germany. The Vosges Mountains, extending north from the Belfort Gap, dominate the region between the River Mosel and the Rhine. The Pyrenees, which extend along the Franco-Spanish frontier from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay, form the other mountain boundary of France.
The Alps and other ranges in the east are, however, broken by gaps and passes.The south central plateau, known as the Massif Central, is separated from the eastern highland region by the valley of the Rhône. The plateau, rising gradually from the plains region on the north and west, is characterized by volcanic outcrops, by deeply eroded limestone tablelands to the south of the region of extinct volcanoes, and, further to the south, by the Cévennes, a series of highlands rising from the Mediterranean coastal depressions.
The plains region, by far the most extensive section of the terrain of France, is a projection of the Great Plain of Europe. Except for a few hilly outcrops, chiefly in the west central portion, the French plains consist of gently undulating lowlands, with an elevation of about 200 metres above sea level.
The northern coast, along the English Channel and the North Sea, is broken by a number of promontories, river estuaries, and minor indentations. From the Brittany peninsula to the Gironde, the Atlantic coastline of France is irregular in outline, and, except in Brittany, is low and sandy. The principal harbours on this part of the coast are those of Brest, Lorient, and Saint-Nazaire. Southward of the Gironde, the coastline consists of an almost continuous stretch of dunes, bordered by arid moors.
The climate of France is generally temperate, but wide regional contrasts occur, as in the Mediterranean coastal area, where subtropical conditions prevail. Temperatures along the Atlantic seaboard are moderated by ocean currents and the prevailing southwestern winds. In the interior, particularly the northeastern region, severe winters and hot summers are usual. The mean annual temperature is about 14°C in Nice, about 10°C in Paris, and about 9°C in Nancy. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout France, averaging about 760 millimeters annually. The heaviest rainfalls occur in June and October. Regional variations in precipitation range between 1,397 millimeters annually in the mountainous areas and 254 millimeters annually in certain northern lowland areas. One of the meteorological peculiarities of southern France is the mistral, a violent northern wind of the Mediterranean region, originating in the central plateau region.
Ref. Microsoft, 1996
The outstanding features of the plains region, the most fertile in France, are the valleys of the Seine, the Loire, and the Garonne. Together with numerous tributaries, these rivers drain the Atlantic watershed of France.The Rhône is the largest river in the country in volume of discharge. With its tributaries, particularly the Saône, Isère, and Durance, it drains the French Alpine region.
Among the principal tributaries of the Seine, which is the main artery of the national inland waterway system, are the Aube, Marne, Oise, and Yonne. Nearly all of the French streams, totaling more than 200, are commercially navigable for varying distances.
Ref. Microsoft, 1996