Status and Trends of Biodiversity
France is composed of various ecosystem types, notably wetlands, lakes, costal habitats, prairies, and forests. Agricultural zones cover more than half of the French territory. Metropolitan France (excluding overseas territories), covering less then 12% of the European continent, comprises 40% of Europe’s flora. This flora is characterized by a high rate of endemism, especially in the Mediterranean and Pyrenean parts of the country. 4 700 species are known to exist in mainland France and 486 of them (10%) are considered endangered or vulnerable. However, some species are increasing in numbers, particularly in forest areas. Regarding France’s fauna, 39% of reptiles, 36% of mammals, and 22% of freshwater fish species are currently threatened. In addition, the country comprises 276 species of birds, of which 18% are threatened. Overseas, the territories, although 4 times smaller in size than Metropolitan France, are home to 100 times more freshwater fish species, 60 times more endemic birds, 26 times more endemic plants, and 3.5 times more endemic mollusks. French Guyana, with a vast track of untouched primary Amazonian forest, has over 5350 species of vascular plants, and 183 terrestrial mammals. New Caledonia, an overseas territory with its own government responsible for the protection of biodiversity, has a flora which is 85% endemic, with several families and genus found no where else in the world, as well as half of the species of coniferous plants found in the southern hemisphere. In 2005, zones that were dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity accounted for 12.6% of all of the French territory. Today, the destruction, fragmentation and alteration of habitats constitute the most important direct cause of the decline of biodiversity in the country.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
France has established 1,153 protected areas, including 126 marine protected areas, 18 wetland sites of international importance and 11 Biosphere Reserves.
Percentage of Forest Cover
Forests in mainland France cover 15,554,000 ha and other wooded land 1,708,000 ha. To this forest cover on the European continent must be added the 8,000,000 hectares of forest on overseas territories, of which approximately 7.5 million hectares are in French Guyana. These forests represent a third of the total French forest cover and almost all of the tropical forests of the European Union.