Geography in Poland
Poland is located in Central Europe between the East Sea in the north and the Carpathian Arch in the south on an area of approx. 313,000 km². In the north, Poland borders on the Baltic Sea and Russia, in the east on Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine, in the south on Slovakia and the Czech Republic and in the west on Germany.
The territory of Poland can be divided into six geographical areas. From north to south these are the coastal areas, the ridge landscapes, the lowlands, the highlands, the foothills and the mountains, each with flowing transitions.
The coast with long sandy beaches and dune areas runs along the Baltic Sea in northern Poland. In the area around the Szczecin and Fresh Lagoon, the coastline is divided into bays, lagoons and spits. The landscapes consist of flat, wide valleys and extensive plains. The ridge landscape was created during the Ice Ages through the design with terminal and ground moraines as well as extensive sand areas in the southeastern part, in which the large Polish lake plateaus are located.
The connected lowland areas include the Silesian Plain, the North and Central Mazovian Plains and the South Podlaskie lowlands as parts of the Central European Plain, which is traversed by the glacial valleys of the Vistula, Warta and Oder. The Polish highlands can enter the Silesian-Krakow highlands in the south, the Lesser Poland highlands to the east and the Lublin highlands in the south-east.
The foothills, which are among the best arable land in Poland, include the Silesian lowlands and the basin landscape of the Subcarpathian Mountains. In the south of Poland are the Polish low mountain ranges with the Forest Carpathians, Sudetes, Jizera Mountains and Giant Mountains. The Moravian Gate lies between the Sudetes and the Carpathians.
The only high mountain range and at the same time the highest elevation in the country is the Tatras belonging to the Carpathian Arc with the High Tatras and the Western Tatras. In addition to the 2503 m high Rysy, the highest peak in Poland, all of the more than 70 Polish two-thousanders are located in this area. The longest rivers are the Vistula, the Oder, the Warta and the Bug, which discharge the country’s precipitation into the Baltic Sea. In addition, some smaller rivers, like the Jizera in the Sudetes, drain over the Elbe into the North Sea or like the Arwa and some smaller rivers from the Forest Carpathians over the Danube or the Dniester into the Black Sea.
Of the many lakes in Poland, the Spirdingsee and the Mauersee in Masuria as well as the Lebasee and the Dratzigsee in Pomerania are the largest, with water areas over 100 km².
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Flora and fauna in Poland
With 29.2% forested land area, Poland is one of the most densely forested countries in Europe. In the east of Poland there are still primeval forests such as the primeval forest of the Bialowieser Heide, which have never been cleared by humans. The largest contiguous forest area in Poland is the Lower Silesian Heath. There are also large forest areas in the mountains, Masuria, Pomerania and Lower Silesia. The Biebrza swamps, which make up 40% of the area of the Biebrza National Park, are among the most biodiverse biotopes.
While after the retreat of the glaciers around 12,000 years ago a tundra area emerged in northern and central Poland, which was gradually covered by a dense mixed forest, a more species-rich flora developed in the ice-free Polish low mountain range in the south of the country, especially on the sunny and calcareous soils of the Pienines. Approx. 3,000 native species communities of plants are represented in Poland.
In addition to the great diversity of animals and plants in Poland, the number of endangered animal species that have already become extinct in other parts of Europe is high, such as the bison in the Bialowieser jungle and in Podlachia and the brown bear in Bialowiese, in the Tatra Mountains and in the forest Carpathians, the wolf and the lynx in the various forest areas, the elk in northern Poland or the beaver in Masuria, Pomerania and Podlaskie. Red deer, roe deer and wild boar can also be found in the forests. The number of native animal species in Poland is estimated from 33 to 47 thousand.
Poland is the most important breeding area for European migratory birds due to the large number of corresponding wetlands. Around a quarter of all migratory birds that come to Europe in the summer breed in Poland. This applies in particular to the lake plateaus and the wetlands, which are often protected by their own national parks, including the areas of the Biebrza National Park, the Narew National Park and the Warthe National Park. The lowland primeval forest of the Białowieża National Park is also an important breeding area for migratory birds.
National parks and nature conservation in Poland
With 23 national parks, which make up about one percent of the country’s area, Poland is one of the countries in Europe with the most national parks. The Tatra National Park is the most visited national park in Poland with over three million registered entries per year. The oldest and one of the most famous parks is the Białowieża National Park, founded in 1923 on the border with Belarus.
The Babia Góra and Białowieża National Parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Other national parks in Poland are the national parks Bieszczady, Tucheler Heide, Drawa, Gorce, Heuscheuergebirge, Kampinos, Giant Mountains, Magura, Narew, Ojców, Pieninen, Polesie, Roztocze, Slowinzischer Nationalpark, Heiligkreuz, Tatra, Warta estuary, Greater Poland, Wigry and Wollin.