The largest country in Europe, France is home to a corresponding diversity of natural habitats and climatic regions. The entire nation falls within the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot, an area which contains more plant species and more endemic reptiles than anywhere else on the continent. However, this designation also highlights the high threat status of much of the continent's wildlife. A leading world power with a long history of settlement and industrialisation, France is among the planet's most developed countries and has suffered heavily from historical deforestation, agricultural intensification and urbanisation. The country's sheer size, however, has helped to preserve some of the most extensive tracts of intact forest in Europe, providing refugia for forest species such as wild boar (Sus scrofa), and the country has enjoyed some success with the reintroduction of European beaver (Castor fiber) and wolf (Canis lupus). Over eleven percent of the land area of metropolitan (mainland) France is contained within protected areas, and the country is home to several wetlands of global importance. In addition to its core European territory, France also controls biologically important departments that include Guyana and the island of New Caledonia (near Australia), as well as Réunion and several smaller islands that fall within the Madagascar biodiversity hotspot.
France is home to 80 species of dragonfly, and southern France is a major European centre of diversity for this group. Nearly 250 butterflies have been recorded from the country, over half the European total. Other charismatic elements of the French insect fauna include praying mantids, European hornets and a variety of striking beetle species. The freshwater habitats of the Pyrenees are home to a number of endemic species of mayfly and caddisfly. The insect fauna of overseas territories is considerably less well-known, perhaps especially in the case of isolated New Caledonia. As with other European species, France's insects face particular challenges from habitat loss. Several dragonfly species have become locally extinct since records began, and range declines have been recorded for 60 species of butterfly.
|Southern Hawker||Aeshna cyanea|
|Shield Bug||Graphosoma italicum|
|House Fly||Musca domestica|
|Small Tortoiseshell||Aglais urticae|
|Peacock Butterfly||Inachis io|
|Red Admiral||Vanessa atalanta|
|Painted Lady||Vanessa (Cynthia) cordui|
|Marbled White||Melanargia galathea|
France's 39 native species of amphibian represent 50% of the total found within the Mediterranean region, several of which are restricted to this region. Particularly striking species include the marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus) and the characteristically black-and-yellow fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra). Most of the country's frogs are the 'typical' pool and marsh frogs familiar through much of Europe, yet the country is also home to three species of tree frog and to midwife toads (Alytes obstretricans), known for their parental care strategy in which eggs are carried wrapped around the male's legs until they hatch and the large tadpoles are released into ponds.
|Fire Salamander||Salamandra salamandra|
|Pyrenean Brook Newt||Calotriton asper|
|Palmate Newt||Lissotriton helveticus|
|Common Midwife Toad||Alytes obstetricans|
|Common Toad||Bufo bufo|
|Common Frog||Rana temporaria|
Metropolitan France is home to 35 native reptiles, including three turtles and 12 snakes, all but four of which are non-venomous. The country's lizards are predominantly day-active rock and wall lizards, but geckos and skinks - highly diverse, largely tropical groups underrepresented in Europe - are also present. France's tropical island territories have been cradles of reptile evolution, but also of extinction; Réunion alone contained 8% of all reptile species extinctions recorded by 1999 (World Resources Institute, 2007). The wonderfully-named terror skink (Phoboscincus bourcourti), at one time the largest predator on New Caledonia, also appears to have been driven to extinction, possibly by the introduction of cats and rodents to the island.
|Common Wall Lizard||Podarcis muralis|
France's location and diversity of habitats make it attractive to both European and migratory bird species. In all, 532 species have been recorded from the country, representing about 5% of the global total. France's important wetland areas are both important bird habitats and ideal locations for observing these animals. At the same time, France's island birds have fared badly following hunting and the introduction of non-native species. The ten species lost from Réunion from historic times, most famously the dodo's larger relative the solitaire, represent 9% of bird extinctions recorded up to 1999 (World Resources Institute, 2007). The Guadelupe caracara (Polyborus lutosus) had been wiped out by hunters by 1900.
|Red Kite||Milvus milvus|
|Feral Pigeon||Columbia livia|