Europe Geography

Europe – plant life

The coastal areas of the Arctic Ocean in northernmost Scandinavia and Russia belong to the species-poor and uniform Arctic tundra region. The vegetation is dominated by creeping dwarf shrubs, semi-grasses, mosses and lichens, many with a circumpolar distribution. The European part of the boreal coniferous forest area, the taiga, includes Scandinavia to the south approximately to the Dalälven, most of Finland as well as large parts of Russia. Here, spruce and pine forests dominate, and large areas are covered by bogs. The forest border is formed by birch, which in southern Norway reaches up to approximately 1200 m, in Lapland to approximately 700 m. In the Scandinavian mountain range, many species have Arctic or Arctic-alpine distribution; the latter also occur in the Central European mountains, but are lacking in the intermediate lowlands. About 30 species are Greenlandic-American and may have survived the ice ages on refuges in western and northern Norway.

Mixed coniferous and deciduous forests cover southern Sweden approximately to Scania, the Baltic states and Belarus. This zone merges to the south into the western and central European deciduous forest area, the nemoral zone, which is dominated by beech, oak, elm and hornbeam. European deciduous forests are generally poorer in tree species than similar areas in North America and East Asia, which is probably a consequence of the short time period in which they have been able to migrate after the last ice age.

In the Central European mountain regions, ie. In the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Carpathians, the deciduous forest is replaced by montan coniferous forest with spruce, pine, European larch and spruce. Here, the tree line is often formed by mountain pine and green electricity. Higher up, in the alpine zone, there are flower-rich meadows with many locally widespread species, including in the bell and alliance families.

Areas from western Norway to Portugal with an extreme coastal climate are partly naturally deforested and characterized by heath vegetation with heather, species of bell heather, certain and thorn leaf. Due to the mild winters, there are a number of species that are predominantly found in the Mediterranean region, such as strawberry trees, which are widespread in the north to the south of England and Ireland.

A mosaic of forest steppe forms the transition to the grass steppes of Ukraine and southern Russia with a western spur in the Hungarian puszta. The long drought in late summer is thought to be the main reason why the steppe is naturally forestless.

The Mediterranean area forms a clearly demarcated plant geographical region characterized by evergreen shrubs, bulbous and tuberous plants as well as many annual species. Originally, large parts of the area were covered by pine forest or evergreen oak forest, which has now for the most part been transformed into scrub: maki and garrigue. In mountainous areas, the evergreen scrub forest is replaced by deciduous forest, real chestnut and oak, while pine or spruce often form the forest boundary.

In Europe there are approximately 12,000 species of seedlings. The Mediterranean countries are the richest in species; Spain, Italy and Greece each have more than 5000 species. Plants with limited local distribution, endemics, are largely missing north of the Alps, but are numerous on islands and mountains in the Mediterranean; in Greece is approximately 740 species endemic to the country.

Europe – wildlife

Europe, together with North Africa, the Middle East and temperate and Arctic Asia, forms the Palaearctic region or subregion, and there is no clear animal geographical boundary between Europe and these neighboring areas. This is reflected in the fact that although there are numerous species and genera of animals that are only found in Europe, this only applies to a few, small groups of higher rank, e.g. certain families of millipedes. The majority of vertebrate species are found both in Europe and in Europe’s neighboring areas.

There are sharp differences between the relatively species-rich fauna in the Mediterranean area and the southern European mountains, The Alps and the Pyrenees, and the far poorer northern European fauna, which has an Arctic character in the far north. During the last ice ages, large parts of Europe were frozen, and most animal species became extinct or displaced to refuges around the Mediterranean or in eastern Siberia. When the ice receded, the animals could migrate north, respectively, in step with the vegetation. west, but many species, both plants and animals, have simply not had time to colonize the entire area in which they could actually live.

Humans have also played a crucial role in Europe’s wildlife. Man’s impact on nature has been more prolonged and pervasive here than most other places on the planet. The living conditions of the animals have changed radically, especially the large, space-consuming species such as bears, wolves and bison, which are now only found in inaccessible areas and in greatly reduced numbers, while e.g. wild horses, aurochs and completely extinct. The freshwater fauna also has cramped conditions due to pollution. In turn, human impact has provided improved living conditions for species associated with the open arable land, although modern economies of scale have meant a secondary impoverishment of this fauna.

Although part of Europe’s current wildlife can thus be said to be human, only a relatively few species have actually been brought to Europe by humans. This applies to muskrats, raccoons and Colorado beetles, which have been introduced respectively. brought in from North America, as well as the East Asian pheasant. On the other hand, numerous European animal species have been introduced or introduced to other regions with a comparable climate, such as North America, Australia and New Zealand. In total, there are in Europe approximately 180 species of mammals, almost 500 species of breeding birds, approximately 50 species of amphibians and close to 85 species of reptiles.

Europe – climate

Europe’s climate varies from polar climates in the northernmost regions over temperate climates to subtropical climates in the Mediterranean region. The precipitation is in most places evenly distributed throughout the year, but the Mediterranean area has winter rain.

The polar regions have summer temperatures below 10 °C (average for the warmest month), and the growth period is so short that only hardy grasses, mosses and lichens can grow, as well as shrubs such as dwarf birch and polar willow. In addition to the Scandinavian mountains and the northernmost part of Iceland, Norway and Russia, the highest parts of the Alps and the Pyrenees have a polar climate.

Fjeldmark and tundra are replaced in the temperate climate zone by coniferous forest and the more heat-demanding deciduous forest. The western part of this climate zone is characterized by air masses from the sea, which provide a coastal climate with relatively cool summers and mild winters. In contrast, Eastern Europe has a distinct continental climate with hot summers and very cold winters.

In the subtropical zone, which encircles the Mediterranean, the precipitation in summer is so sparse in relation to the high temperatures that the natural plant growth becomes maki, which is an evergreen scrub vegetation that can withstand drought.

According to countryaah, western Europe’s weather is characterized by moist air masses with migratory cyclones (low pressure systems) that move from the Atlantic Ocean across the continent throughout the year. The fronts of the cyclones are the cause of most of the precipitation that falls evenly throughout the year. The cyclones usually occur in summer at Newfoundland and then move close past Iceland in a mostly northeastern orbit across Europe. In winter, cyclones often move further south, causing winter rain over the Mediterranean.

Eastern Europe is increasingly characterized by continental air masses, which contribute to the large temperature differences between summer and winter.

Most of Europe has an annual rainfall of between 500 and 1000 mm. Larger amounts of precipitation fall especially on the west-facing coasts and mountain slopes. This applies to the Norwegian mountains (Bergen, 2150 mm), Western Scotland and the coastal parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Areas located on the eastern side of the mountain ranges receive less rainfall; at least get SE-Spain with less than 250 mm.

In most places, the combination of heat and precipitation in summer is suitable for agriculture, and only by the Mediterranean is irrigation a necessity. In many places, however, the natural rainfall is supplemented by irrigation; it can be useful in the regularly recurring situations where stable summer high pressures over Western Europe for several weeks can block the cyclone tracks from the Atlantic and cause drought.

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