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After watching this video, you should be able to describe in general terms the plants and animals of Europe, how they are distributed, and why they are so varied. A short quiz will follow.

Regions of Europe

Europe is a large area – a total of about 3.

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9 million square miles, which is even bigger than the United States. Because of its size, it’s hugely varied in climate, with a total of eight distinct climate regions. These include semiarid, Mediterranean, humid subtropical, marine, humid continental, subarctic, tundra, and highland climates.Since plant and animal life varies by climate, it should also not be surprising that the native plants and animals that call Europe home are equally varied, though many have been pushed aside or wiped out by human activities (often named the Holocene extinction). Today we’re going to talk about some of the native plants and animals that live in Europe’s many climate regions.

Native Animals

The seas of Europe contain many species of fish, including lots of cod and haddock. There are also lobster, prawns, and shrimp.

The continent is home to billions of birds, with around 500 distinct species. There are around 230 species of mammals as of 2007, including insectivores (shrews, moles, and hedgehogs), bats, and rodents, such as the Eurasian beaver, rabbit, hare, and mountain hare. There are several species of boar, moose, and deer. You can even find wolves, brown bears, wolverines, and polar bears, though most species are endangered.

Not to mention lynx, foxes, jackals, stoats, otters, badgers, and martens.Southern Europe is particularly rich in amphibian life, though wetlands can be found all over Europe – in fact there are more wetlands in the Northwest, even if those wetlands have less amphibians. There are many species of frogs and toads in Europe.Despite all this animal life, it is astonishing to think that this biodiversity is only a fraction of what once existed, prior to human activities.

Native Plants

While animals can find ways to spread over large areas, climate is the most important factor in determining the location of plants. Frost has huge impacts on which plants can survive and at what times of year they grow. Soil is also another factor, since the soil in Mediterranean areas is more sandy, causing rainfall to leave the soil quickly.

And in contrast, where there’s rock not far below the soil, water can be trapped creating marshes. Put these together and the plants of Europe vary a lot by area.The Mediterranean climate region alone contains approximately 22,500 plant species found nowhere else, including the Aleppo Pine, Stone Pine, Mediterranean Cypress, Strawberry tree, several species of oak, and many more. The far North of Europe, as well as more Southern mountain regions, contain areas of tundra with sparse vegetation. A little further south (and a little lower in altitude in the case of mountains) you’ll find coniferous forests, both in the form of Boreal forest in the Northeast (especially Scandinavia), and more temperate coniferous forests in places like Scotland.

These forests include many species of tree, but especially Scots pine, Norway spruce and other pine, fir, spruce, and larch species. There are also birch trees and other small-leaved deciduous trees that can still survive in cold conditions. Generally, if you’re in the west of Europe you have to go further north to find coniferous forests, because the West coast of Europe is warmed by the gulf stream – hot currents traveling up from the Caribbean.

In Western and Central Europe, these coniferous forests give way to deciduous temperate broadleaf forests, which include elm, oak, aspen, hazel, and holly, among others.Europe also contains large areas of wetlands, with their own types of plant life. These are spread throughout Europe, but there are a particularly large number in the Northwest, including the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

Lesson Summary

Europe is a large area – a total of 3.931 million square miles and contains a total of eight distinct climate regions. These include semiarid, Mediterranean, humid subtropical, marine, humid continental, subarctic, tundra, and highland climates.

Europe varies hugely in climate, altitude, soil type, and human density, and the plants and animals of each region are similarly varied.Europe contain many species of fish, billions of birds, around 230 species of mammals, and the South is rich in amphibians. The mammals include insectivores, bats, rodents, beaver, rabbit, hare, moose, deer, wolves, bears, lynx, foxes, otters, badgers, and martens, among others. Amphibians can be found all over Europe, but especially in the South.Climate has a particularly large impact on the location of plants. The Mediterranean climate region alone contains 22,500 plant species found nowhere else.

The far North of Europe, as well as most Southern mountain regions, contain areas of tundra with sparse vegetation. A little further south (and a little lower in altitude in the case of mountains) you’ll find coniferous forests, both in the form of Boreal forest in the Northeast (especially in Scandinavia), and more temperate coniferous forests in places like Scotland. In Western and Central Europe, these give way to deciduous temperate broadleaf forests.Europe also contains large areas of wetlands, with their own types of plant life. These are spread throughout Europe, but there are a particularly large number in the Northwest, including the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark.Overall, this is a lot of plant and animal life.

It’s therefore all the more astonishing to realize that what exists now is only a fraction of what once existed, before we humans populated the area and caused plants and animals to go extinct.

Learning Outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Name the types of climates found in Europe
  • Identify some of the animal species that are found in Europe
  • List some of the plant types found in Europe’s different climate zones

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