Geography in Germany
Germany is located in central Central Europe and extends over an area of approx. 360,000 km² from the North and Baltic Seas in the north to the Alps in the south. In the north Germany borders on Denmark, in the west on the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, in the south on Switzerland and Austria and in the east on the Czech Republic and Poland.
In terms of natural space, Germany is divided into different types of landscape. Extensive lowlands extend from the North Sea to the edge of the low mountain range, the marshlands of which are protected by dykes on the coasts and in the river valleys. To the east of it, between the low mountain range and the Baltic Sea coast, there are glacial moraine landscapes with a large number of natural lakes. The low mountain range from the Teutoburg Forest to the Harz Mountains and on to the Ore and Elbe Sandstone Mountains connect to the center of Germany. The low mountain ranges are interrupted by the north-south running inlets of the Hessian depression and the Upper Rhine valley rift reaching to the edge of the Alps. In the southeast, the low mountain ranges merge into the layered plain country characterized by wide table mountains with the Swabian Alb as a distinctive elevation. To the south of this is the moraine landscape of the Alpine foothills, which begins with the Donauried and ends abruptly at the suddenly rising Alpine chain in the far south, while the low mountain ranges in the far west along the Upper Rhine Valley rift with the Black Forest merge more continuously into the high mountain landscape of the Alps.
Most of the precipitation is discharged via the Rhine and the Weser into the North Sea and via the Elbe and the Oder into the Baltic Sea. Only the southern part of Germany with the Alps and the Alpine foothills drains over the Danube into the Black Sea.
In the northern and southern moraine landscapes of Germany there are numerous natural lakes, of which Lake Constance is the largest. Other large lakes are the Starnberger See, the Ammersee and the Chiemsee in southern Germany and the Müritz, Plauer, Schweriner and Plöner See in northern Germany. The islands of Rügen and Fehmarn are located on the heavily fragmented Baltic Sea coast of Germany. In front of the North Sea coast is the chain of islands of the East Frisian Islands and the North Frisian Islands Amrum, Föhr and Sylt. Heligoland in the German Bight is the only offshore island in Germany.
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Flora and fauna in Germany
Without human influence, Germany’s vegetation would mainly be characterized by deciduous and mixed forests, with the exception of nutrient-poor or dry locations such as rocky peaks, heather plains and moorlands, as well as the alpine and sub-alpine high areas, which are extremely poor in vegetation and have a cold temperate climate. During the thousands of years of German settlement history, large parts of the country have been redesigned and adapted to human needs. These changes range from the draining of the lowlands and moors in the Emsland, the dikes of the marshes and the cultivation of large stretches of land for agriculture to the creation of extensive meadows and heathlands for cattle breeding and the terracing of valley slopes for viticulture.
In terms of locality, the flora in Germany has a high level of biodiversity, favored by location factors and the climate. The total stock of wild plant species in Germany is estimated to be over 9,500 species. However, a number of introduced species such as the robinia or the glandular balsam can also be found today, especially on fallow and disrupted areas. Germany is currently about 32% covered with forest, making it one of the most densely forested countries in the European Union. The current tree species composition, however, only partially corresponds to the natural conditions and is mainly determined by forestry. The most common tree species are the Norway spruce, followed by the Scots pine, European beech, and the oak. Around half of the state’s area is used for agriculture. In addition to the use as permanent grassland, most of the crops have been cultivated, since the Stone Age or the Bronze Age, mainly with crops that did not occur naturally in Central Europe, most of the grain from the Middle East, potatoes and maize from America. In the river valleys, including those of the Main, Moselle, Ahr and Rhine, the landscape was often redesigned for wine growing.
Around 48,000 animal species have been recorded in Germany, including 104 mammal, 328 bird, 13 reptile, 22 amphibian and 197 fish species as well as over 33,000 insect species.
The wild mammals native to Germany include roe deer, wild boar, red and fallow deer as well as foxes, martens and lynxes. Beavers and otters are rare residents of the floodplains, with populations increasing again in some cases. Alpine ibex, Alpine marmot and chamois live in the Bavarian Alps. While moose occasionally migrate from neighboring countries today, wolves have firmly established themselves again in Germany, mostly in the states of Saxony, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony. In 2013 a herd of European bison was released in the Rothaar Mountains.
The sea eagle is native to around 500 pairs, mainly in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. The golden eagle is only found in the Bavarian Alps, where the bearded vulture from Switzerland and Austria, which has been exterminated there, is also returning. The most common birds of prey today are buzzards and kestrels, the population of peregrine falcons is significantly lower. Over half of the total population of red kites breeds in Germany, but is declining due to intensive agriculture. Due to a number of renaturation measures and successful measures to keep the water clean, the population of storks and herons in the river valleys and floodplains has increased again. The Wadden Sea is a resting place for ten to twelve million migratory birds per year.
The salmon, which used to be common in the rivers, was reintroduced in the Rhine. Seals and gray seals are represented again today with a few thousand specimens on the German coasts. Eight species of whale occur in the North and Baltic Seas, including the porpoise, and the common dolphin is also a species of dolphin. The reptiles living in Germany include grass snakes, adder and European pond turtles. Amphibians such as salamanders, frogs, toads, toads and newts are all on the red list of threatened animal species in Germany.
The animal species that have migrated to Germany from abroad include raccoons, raccoon dogs, ring-necked parakeets and the Egyptian goose.