Geography of France

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Coordinates: 46°00′N 2°00′E / 46.000°N 2.000°E / 46.000; 2.000France is a country in Western Europe. France borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. To the west is the Bay of Biscay, to the north is the English Channel and the North Sea. France also has territory in South America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean, as well as numerous territories of various status.

Area[edit]

A topographic map of France.
  • Total area: 674,843 km2
    • (Whole territory of the French Republic, including all the overseas departments and territories, but excluding the disputed French territory of Terre Adélie in Antarctica)
  • Metropolitan France: 551,695 km2
    • (Metropolitan - i.e. European - France only, French National Geographic Institute data)
  • Metropolitan France: 543,965 km2
    • (Metropolitan - i.e. European - France only, French Land Register data, which exclude lakes, ponds, glaciers larger than 1 km2
      , and estuaries)

Terrain[edit]

Land use in France, with urban areas shown in red, 2006.

Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west.

Elevation extremes:

Land use[edit]

  • Arable land: 33.46%
  • Permanent crops: 2.03%
  • Other: 64.51% (2005)

Irrigated land: 26,700 km² (2003)

Total renewable water resources:' 189 km3 (2003)

Natural resources[edit]

Coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, fish, gold

Natural hazards[edit]

Flooding, avalanches, midwinter windstorms, drought, forest fires in the south near the Mediterranean, earthquakes

Environment[edit]

Some forest damage from acid rain (major forest damage occurred as a result of severe December 1999 windstorm);

Flora and fauna[edit]

An open grassland during the Pleistocene Ice Age, France gradually became forested as the glaciers retreated starting in 10,000 BC. Clearing of the primeval forests began in Neolithic times, but they were still fairly extensive until major clearing began in medieval times.

By the 15th century, France had largely been denuded of its forests and was forced to rely on Scandinavia and their North American colonies for lumber. Significant remaining forested areas are in the Gascony region and north in the Alsace-Ardennes area. The Ardennes Forest was the scene of extensive fighting in both world wars.

In prehistoric times, France was home to large predatory animals such as wolves and brown bears, as well as herbivores such as elk. The larger fauna have disappeared outside of the Pyrenees Mountains where bears live as a protected species. Smaller animals include martens, wild pigs, foxes, weasels, bats, rodents, rabbits, and assorted birds.

The upper central part of this scene is dominated by the Paris Basin, which consists of a layered sequence of sedimentary rocks. Fertile soils over much of the area make good agricultural land. The Normandy coast to the upper left is characterized by high, chalk cliffs, while the Brittany coast (the peninsula to the left) is highly indented where deep valleys were drowned by the sea, and the Biscay coast to the southwest is marked by flat, sandy beaches.

Political geography[edit]

Internal divisions[edit]

Regions and departments of France.

France has several levels of internal divisions. The first-level administrative division of Integral France is regions. Besides this the French Republic has sovereignty over several other territories, with various administrative levels.

  • Metropolitan (i.e. European) France is divided into 21 régions and 1 territorial collectivity, Corsica. However, Corsica is referred to as a region in common speech. These regions are subdivided into 96 départements, which are further divided into 329 arrondissements, which are further divided into 3,879 cantons, which are further divided into 36,568 communes (as of 1/1/2004).
The lands making up the French Republic, shown at the same geographic scale.
  • Five overseas regions (régions d'outre-mer, or ROM): Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion, with identical status to metropolitan regions. Each of these overseas regions also being an overseas département (département d'outre-mer, or DOM), with the same status as a département of metropolitan France. This double structure (région/département) is new, due to the recent extension of the regional scheme to the overseas départements, and may soon transform into a single structure, with the merger of the regional and departmental assemblies. Another proposed change is that new départements are created such as in the case of Réunion, where it has been proposed to create a second département in the south of the island, with the région of Réunion above these two départements.

Boundaries[edit]

  • Land boundaries:
  • Border countries:
  • Coastline: 3,427 km (metropolitan), 378 km (French Guiana), 306 km (Guadeloupe), 350 km (Martinique), 207 km (Réunion)
  • Maritime claims:
    • Contiguous zone: 24 nmi (44.4 km; 27.6 mi)
    • Continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
    • Exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi); does not apply to the Mediterranean
    • Territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)

Extreme points[edit]

This is a list of the extreme points of France; the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.

France (mainland Europe)[edit]

France (metropolitan)[edit]

France (including départements d'outre mer)[edit]

France (territory of the French Republic, including collectivités territoriales and pays et territoires d'outre-mer)[edit]

Antipodes[edit]

The land hemisphere—the half of the Earth with the most land—is centred on Nantes. Thus the antipodes of France are in the middle of the water hemisphere in the South Pacific. The only significant land mass antipodal to metropolitan France is the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, corresponding to an area north of Montpellier including much of the Cévennes National Park, though the antipodes of the uninhabited Bounty Islands are between Tours, Orléans, and Le Mans, and those of the likewise uninhabited Antipodes Islands are in Normandy, near Saint-Saëns outside of Rouen.

However, French overseas possessions are widespread enough that Clipperton Island and Réunion are passably close to being antipodal to each other, and several are antipodal to other countries. The Indonesian island of Buru, for example, finds its antipodes within French Guiana, as do a few smaller islands. The French Antarctic territory of Kerguelen is opposite the border between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and the US state of Montana. New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands overlap Mauritania and southern Western Sahara, with the Mauritanian town of Zoueratte corresponding to the Isle of Pines. Wallis and Futuna are antipodal to Niger north of Niamey (spec. Féfandou near Ouallam).

In French Polynesia, the Marquesas are opposite central Ethiopia; the Society Islands of northern Sudan, with Tahiti close to antipodal with Al Dabbah on the Nile. The Austral Islands cover southern Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Tuamotus cover a broad swath of Sudan, northern Eritrea, the Red Sea, and Saudi Arabia, with Khartoum antipodal to Rangiroa and Jeddah close to Tematangi. The Gambier Islands overlap Arabia, with Mangareva between Riyadh and Mecca.

See also[edit]

Lists:

General:

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • (French) GéoPortail - Geography portal of France, high altitude imagery, maps ...
  • A detailed map of France showing all régions and numbered départements, including their préfectures.