The Ecogregions of France consist chiefly of nine different forest types, althought the great majority of the natural environment has been altered beginning with massive deforestation begun by humans in the middle Holocene. During the Eemian period 130,000 to 110,000 years ago, there was a series of forest successions ranging from pine to oak to hornbeam dominance that actually set the stage for Holocene forest progression.
Ecoregions are areas that:  share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;  share similar environmental conditions; and,  interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence. Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire Earth.
The following regions are found in France:
Atlantic mixed forests (PA0402) include coastal vegetation formations of dunes and heathlands with vegetation that thrives in salty soil. Sand dune systems occur along the southwestern coast of France, the region known as Les Landes, covered by both natural and planted forests of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). They are rich in plant life, and home to a number of endemics. The eastern limits are determined by the progressive disappearance of oceanic species and the appearance of continental species. The mammal fauna of the ecoregion is mostly composed of species widespread throughout Europe. Long-term human activities have wiped out most evident signs of natural forests, so it is difficult to establish a definitive biogeographic boundary. Only fragments of natural vegetation remain in this ecoregion, as most of the area was converted long ago into intensive agriculture (barley, wheat, sugar beets, and corn) or pasture.
Northeastern Spain and Southern France Mediterranean forests (PA1215) encompass Southern France. The ecoregion’s coastline is characterized by cliffs, sand dunes, and salt lagoon systems of outstanding biodiversity. Forests are mainly composed of mixed evergreen and deciduous broadleaf and conifer species. Climatically, the ecoregion experiences very hot and dry summers, and relatively temperate and humid to sub-humid winters. Annual average temperature ranges from 10-17ºC, and the minimum average temperature of the coldest month ranges from 5-10º C. The annual precipitation ranges from 350-800 millimeters (mm) and is typified by torrential rainfalls in autumn. The ecoregion includes several centers of plant diversity (Balearic Islands, Catalonian coastal ranges, Alicante Mountains) with an endemism rate between 10-20% of the total vascular plants. Large mammals are not particularly prominent in this ecoregion. Most of the ecoregion has been intensively transformed into agricultural land, including mountain crop terraces and pastures, extensive vineyards, almond and olive groves, fruit trees orchards, and other irrigated crops. Coastal urbanization for tourism development is intensively degrading the last remaining coastal woodlands, as well as provoking an alarming situation regarding water shortage and pollution.
Western European broadleaf forests (PA0445) are found through the middle of France, extending into Germany. Warm, moist air from the Atlantic Ocean dominates this inland ecoregion. Small mountains (no higher than 5,000 feet [1,500 m]), hills, and valleys are found throughout the area. Yearly temperatures are steady, precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, and frosts occur for one to three months. This ecoregion maintains healthy bird populations, but most of the larger mammals are in decline and have been extirpated from many areas. Throughout this ecoregion, the landscape is dominated by urbanization and agriculture, including vineyards and other monocultural plantings. Most streams have been altered for use in irrigation, and many valleys are flooded by dams constructed for increasing power and water supplies.
Alps conifer and mixed forests (PA0501) are located in Southeastern France and are very important as they contribute much of what is left of the original forest cover of central and southern Europe. This western region of the Alps is influenced by the mild and humid Atlantic air streams. The climate is primarily cold and temperate, with slight local variations, for example in border "Mediterranean character" areas. The Alps are an interzonal mountain system (Orobiome), or a "transition area" between Central and Mediterranean Europe, and still have large pristine areas and a high degree of naturalness. About 4500 species of vascular plants, 800 species of mosses, 300 liverworts, 2500 lichens and more than 5000 fungi can be found here. About 80 mammal species inhabit the Alps, none of which is "strictly" endemic. Large carnivore populations have been reduced in size or fragmented into small groups. About 200 breeding bird species can be identified, as well as an equal number of migratory species. The foremost conservation concern in the Alps is the excessive fragmentation and loss of habitats and populations.
Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests (PA1211) are located in the Southeast corner bordering Italy. The natural vegetation is a mixed deciduous and sclerophyllous forest, characteristic of the Mediterranean climate. Many forest species have leathery evergreen leaves adapted to conserve water during the region’s dry summers. The warm and sub-humid lower elevations (average annual temperature of about 14-17 ºC) differ greatly from the cold and humid higher elevations (over 1800 millimeters [mm] average annual precipitation, average annual temperature of about 9-13 ºC), which experience rigorous winters and abundant snow. The ecoregion hosts an outstanding plant diversity. Orchids are extremely abundant on certain mountain massifs. This ecoregion also has a significant faunal diversity, though the number of endemic species is not high. More than 40 mammal species are present, including important populations of threatened large carnivores. Outstanding and extensive old-growth forests have persisted to the present day due to the inaccessibility of these mountain massifs.
Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests (PA0433) are located in the Pyrenees, a mountain system that bridges Central and Mediterranean Europe and contains high levels of biodiversity and many endemic species. The Pyrenees are divided into three major bioclimatic sectors. The western portion is affected by the mild and humid Atlantic air streams, the central continental sector by colder and drier weather, and the eastern section by a Mediterranean influence, which brings warm summer drought. A Mediterranean transitional climate type predominates in the southern Pyrenean lower ranges, known as the "Prepyrenees". About 64 species of mammal inhabit the Pyrenees, including some endemic subspecies. Of the 3,500 species of plants found in this ecoregion, about 200 are endemic. Wilderness areas can still be found in certain valleys, canyons, and high slopes of the Pyrenees. Some species of special concern have critically low populations and are susceptible to extirpation in these mountains. Intensive logging operations, ski runs, winter tourism resorts, road construction, and power stations/dams threaten the survival of some of the best preserved forest habitat in Western Europe.
Cantabrian mixed forests (PA0406) serve as a transition ecotonal zone between the Eurosiberian and the Mediterranean biogeographic regions in Europe, which spreads in a west-east direction along 600 kilometers (km), from the Galician Atlantic coasts (Finisterre Cape) to the Western extreme of the Pyrenees. The ecoregion has warm Atlantic conditions. Average annual temperature is between 8-14 ºC, and average rainfall is between 900-1,800 millimeters (mm). The coastal strip experiences mild winters and high rainfall, which is very uniformly distributed around the year. The Western Galician-Portuguese coast has a Mediterranean character, being warmer and drier during summer. Higher mountain elevations – mainly the central axis – are characterized by cold winters with abundant snow. The Cantabric and Northern Portugal Mountains still host some old-growth forest, which maintain very pristine conditions and a high biodiversity. About 2000 vascular plant species, of which between 10 to 20% are endemics are present. Large carnivore populations are still significant. Also of particular interest are the last herds of wild horses. Intensive cattle raising historically has transformed the forests of most of the coastal low elevations and plains into pasture lands.
Corsican montane broadleaf and mixed forests (PA1204) are located on Corsica, north of Sardina in the Mediterranean Sea. this ecoregion is limited to high-altitude forests of the island’s mountain ranges. Climatically, the ecoregion is characterized by a sharp altitudinal bioclimate gradient, from the warm and dry lower elevations (average annual temperature of about 14-17º Celsius [C]) to the cold and humid higher elevations (average annual temperature of about 9-13º C). The wide altitudinal range of this ecoregion results in several forest zones. The plant endemism rate of this ecoregion is approximately 12% (296 species of a total 2,524 floral species). The endemic flora is distributed all along the altitudinal gradient. This ecoregion has a significant faunal diversity, though there are few endemic species. The ecoregion has maintained the majority of its forest cover. Outstanding and extensive old-growth forests remain due to the inaccessibility of these mountain massifs.
Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests (PA1222) extend along the coastal lowlands of Corsica. The ecoregion experiences very hot and dry summers and relatively temperate and humid to subhumid winters. Annual average temperatures range from 10-17ºC, and the minimum average temperature of the coldest month ranges from 5-10º C. The annual rainfall ranges from 400-1,200 millimeters (mm). The ecoregion supports a high degree of plant diversity. The endemism rate is approximately 10% of the total flora. This ecoregion also has significant [[fauna]l diversity, though the number of endemic species is not high. The ecoregion has lost the majority of its forest cover, mainly as a result of agriculture, grazing, and urban development.
- Bailey, Robert G. 2002. Ecoregion-Based Design for Sustainability. Springer-Verlag. New York, New York. 240pp., 100 illus. ISBN 0-387-95430-9
- Bailey, Robert G. 1998. Ecoregions: The Ecosystem Geography of the Oceans and the Continents. Springer-Verlag. New York, New York. 192pp., 107 illus., 10 tables. ISBN 0-387-98305-8
- Bailey, Robert G. 1996. Ecosystem Geography. Springer-Verlag. New York, New York. 216pp., 122 illus., 14 tables. ISBN 0-387-94586-5
- Omernik, James M., 1995. Ecoregions: A spatial framework for environmental management. In: Biological Assessment and Criteria: Tools for Water Resource Planning and Decision Making. Davis, W.S. and T.P. Simon (eds.) Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL. Pp. 49-62. ISBN: 0873718941.
- World Wildlife Fund, Ecoregions homepage, Accessed 1 May 2009.