vineri, 27 iulie 2012
Earth one of the planets in the solar system, the third in distance from the sun and the fifth largest of the planets in diameter. The mean distance of the earth from the sun is 149,503,000 km (92,897,000 mi). It is the only planet known to support life, although some of the other planets have atmospheres and contain water. The earth is not a perfect sphere but is slightly oblate, or flattened at the poles. The diameter of the earth measured around the North Pole and the South Pole is about 42 km (26 mi) less than the diameter of the earth measured at the equator. COMPOSITION The earth consists of five parts: the first, the atmosphere, is gaseous; the second, the hydrosphere, is liquid; the third, fourth, and fifth, the lithosphere, mantle, and core, are largely solid. The atmosphere is the gaseous envelope that surrounds the solid body of the planet. Although it has a thickness of more than 1100 km (more than 700 mi), about half its mass is concentrated in the lower 5.6 km (3.5 mi). The lithosphere, consisting mainly of the cold, rigid, rocky crust of the earth, extends to depths of 100 km (60 mi). The hydrosphere is the layer of water that, in the form of the oceans, covers approximately 70.8 percent of the surface of the earth. The mantle and core are the heavy interior of the earth, making up most of the earth’s mass. The hydrosphere consists chiefly of the oceans, but technically includes all water surfaces in the world, including inland seas, lakes, rivers, and underground waters. The average depth of the oceans is 3794 m (12,447 ft), more than five times the average height of the continents. The mass of the oceans is approximately 1.35 quintillion (1.35 × 1018) metric tons, or about 1/4400 of the total mass of the earth. The rocks of the lithosphere have an average density of 2.7 and are almost entirely made up of 11 elements, which together account for about 99.5 percent of its mass. The most abundant is oxygen (about 46.60 percent of the total), followed by silicon (about 27.72 percent), aluminum (8.13 percent), iron (5.0 percent), calcium (3.63 percent), sodium (2.83 percent), potassium (2.59 percent), magnesium (2.09 percent) and titanium, hydrogen, and phosphorus (totaling less than 1 percent). In addition, 11 other elements are present in trace amounts of 0.1 to 0.02 percent. These elements, in order of abundance, are carbon, manganese, sulfur, barium, chlorine, chromium, fluorine, zirconium, nickel, strontium, and vanadium. The elements are present in the lithosphere almost entirely in the form of compounds rather than in their free state. These compounds exist almost entirely in the crystalline state, so they are, by definition, minerals. The lithosphere comprises two shells—the crust and upper mantle—that are divided into a dozen or so rigid tectonic plates (see Plate Tectonics). The crust itself is divided in two. The sialic or upper crust, of which the continents consist, is made up of igneous and sedimentary rocks whose average chemical composition is similar to that of granite and whose density is about 2.7. The simatic or lower crust, which forms the floors of the ocean basins, is made of darker, heavier igneous rocks such as gabbro and basalt, with an average density of about 3. The lithosphere also includes the upper mantle. Rocks at these depths have a density of about 3.3. The upper mantle is separated from the crust above by a seismic discontinuity, called the Moho, and from the lower mantle below by a zone of weakness known as the asthenosphere. Shearing of the plastic, partially molten rocks of the asthenosphere, 100 km (60 mi) thick, enables the continents to drift across the earth’s surface and oceans to open and close. The dense, heavy interior of the earth is divided into a thick shell, the mantle, surrounding an innermost sphere, the core. The mantle extends from the base of the crust to a depth of about 2900 km (1800 mi). Except for the zone known as the asthenosphere, it is solid, and its density, increasing with depth, ranges from 3.3 to 6. The upper mantle is composed of iron and magnesium silicates, as typified by the mineral olivine. The lower part may consist of a mixture of oxides of magnesium, silicon, and iron. Seismological research has shown that the core has an outer shell about 2225 km (1380 mi) thick with an average density of 10. This shell is probably rigid, and studies show that its outer surface has depressions and peaks, the latter forming where warm material rises. In contrast, the inner core, which has a radius of about 1275 km (795 mi), is solid. Both core layers are thought to consist largely of iron, with a small percentage of nickel and other elements. Temperatures in the inner core may be as high as 6650°C (12,000°F), and the average density is estimated to be 13. Forest Conservation Forests provide many social, economic, and environmental benefits. In addition to timber and paper products, forests provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, prevent soil erosion and flooding, help provide clean air and water, and contain tremendous biodiversity. Forests are also an important defense against global climate change. Through the process of photosynthesis, forests produce life-giving oxygen and consume huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the atmospheric chemical most responsible for global warming. By decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, forests may reduce the effects of global warming. However, huge areas of the richest forests in the world have been cleared for wood fuel, timber products, agriculture, and livestock. These forests are rapidly disappearing. The tropical rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon River basin were cut down at an estimated rate of 50,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi) per year in the late 1980s. The countries with the most tropical forests tend to be developing and overpopulated nations in the southern hemisphere. Due to poor economies, people resort to clearing the forest and planting crops in order to survive. While there have been effective efforts to stop deforestation directly through boycotts of multinational corporations responsible for exploitative logging, the most effective conservation policies in these countries have been efforts to relieve poverty and expand access to education and health care. In the United States and Canada, forests are threatened by extensive logging, called clear-cutting, which destroys plant and animal habitat and leaves the landscape bare and unproductive if not properly reforested. Small pockets of ancient forests from 200 to 1200 years old still exist but are threatened by logging interests. Until the 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service was directed by Congress to maximize the harvest of timber in order to provide jobs. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, environmentalists sued the government for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and heavy logging was deemed nonsustainable. As a result, the timber harvest was reduced and foresters were directed to follow a more sustainable policy called ecosystem management. This policy required foresters to focus on conserving natural habitats rather than maximizing tree harvest. Despite this change, many ancient forests remain unprotected. Water Conservation Clean freshwater resources are essential for drinking, bathing, cooking, irrigation, industry, and for plant and animal survival. Unfortunately, the global supply of freshwater is distributed unevenly. Chronic water shortages exist in most of Africa and drought is common over much of the globe. The sources of most freshwater supplies, groundwater (water located below the soil surface) reservoirs and rivers, are under severe and increasing environmental stress because of overuse, water pollution, and ecosystem degradation. Over 95 percent of urban sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into surface waters such as rivers and harbors. About 65 percent of the global freshwater supply is used in agriculture and 25 percent is used in industry. Freshwater conservation therefore requires a reduction in wasteful practices like inefficient irrigation, reforms in agriculture and industry, and strict pollution controls worldwide. In addition, water supplies can be increased through effective management of watersheds (areas that drain into one shared waterway). By restoring natural vegetation to forests or fields, communities can increase the storage and filtering capacity of these watersheds and minimize wasteful flooding and erosion. Restoration and protection of wetlands is crucial to water conservation. Like giant sponges, wetlands stabilize groundwater supplies by holding rainfall and discharging the water slowly, acting as natural flood-control reservoirs. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), formal process used to predict how a development project or proposed legislation will affect such natural resources as water, air, land, and wildlife. The environmental impact statement was first introduced in 1969 in the United States as a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. Since then, an increasing number of countries have adopted the process, introducing legislation and establishing agencies with responsibility for its implementation. Environmental impact statements have mostly been applied to individual projects and have led to various offshoot techniques, such as health impact assessments, social impact assessments, cumulative effects assessments, and strategic environmental assessments (environmental assessments of proposed policies, programs, and plans). In some cases, social and economic impacts are assessed as part of the environmental impact statements. In other cases, they are considered separately. An EIS usually involves a sequence of steps: (1) screening to decide if a project requires assessment and to what level of detail; (2) preliminary assessment to identify key impacts, their magnitude, significance, and importance; (3) scoping to ensure the EIS focuses on key issues and to determine where more detailed information is needed; (4) implementing the main EIS study, which involves detailed investigations to predict impacts, assess their consequences, or both. After a project is completed a post audit is sometimes done to determine how close the EIS's predictions were to the actual impacts. A growing number of businesses commission independent audits that help set environmental performance targets, particularly regarding waste disposal and energy use. The term environmental audit is applied to the voluntary regulation of an organization's practices in relation to its environmental impact. Greenpeace, international environmental organization dedicated to preserving the earth's natural resources and its diverse plant and animal life. The organization campaigns against nuclear weapons testing, environmental pollution, and destructive practices in fishing, logging, and other industries. Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1971 by members of the Don't Make a Wave Committee, a small group opposed to nuclear weapons testing by the United States military in Alaska. The group renamed itself Greenpeace to reflect the broader goal of creating a green and peaceful world. Greenpeace won fame for its daring exploits calculated to attract media attention to environmental issues. Greenpeace members in rubber rafts have disrupted whaling expeditions by positioning themselves between the whales and hunters' harpoons. They used similar tactics in Newfoundland to protest the clubbing of baby harp seals, whose soft white fur is highly valued by clothing manufacturers. The organization is well known for scaling corporate skyscrapers and factory smokestacks to hang protest banners. Greenpeace's aggressive style has often led to conflicts with corporations, local authorities, and even national governments. In 1985 the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, on a voyage to protest French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific, sank in a New Zealand port, and the crew photographer, Fernando Pereira, drowned. Investigations revealed that the ship had been deliberately sabotaged with explosives planted by undercover agents of the French military. The resulting scandal rocked the highest levels of the French government, leading to the resignation of Defense Minister Charles Hernu and the dismissal of Admiral Pierre Lacoste, director of the French Secret Service. During the 1990s Greenpeace has been troubled by internal disagreements over political strategy. Some members want to persist with a militant approach, emphasizing civil disobedience and physical confrontation. Other members, including the organization's leaders, are convinced that Greenpeace must work cooperatively with the companies and industries that have been its targets in the past. Greenpeace has about 3 million dues-paying members and more than 40 offices in 30 countries. Its international headquarters are in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Arctic Ocean, body of water variously identified as the smallest of four world oceans or as a virtually landlocked arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The Arctic Ocean extends south from the North Pole to the shores of Europe, Asia, and North America. I BOUNDARIES AND SIZE The surface waters of the Arctic Ocean mingle with those of the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait, by way of a narrow and shallow channel, which has a depth of about 55 m (about 180 ft). More importantly, the Arctic waters mix with those of the Atlantic Ocean across a system of submarine sills (shallow ridges) that span the great distances from Scotland to Greenland and from Greenland to Baffin Island at depths of about 500 to 700 m (about 1640 to 2300 ft). Emptying into the Arctic Ocean are the Ob’, Yenisey, and Lena rivers in Asia and the Mackenzie River in North America. The total surface area of the Arctic Ocean, including its major subdivisions—the North Polar Sea (the main portion), the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and the Barents Sea—is about 14 million sq km (about 5.4 million sq mi). II RESOURCES Fish, in commercially exploitable quantities, are found only in the warmer marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, notably in the North Sea (herring, cod, and flounder) and the Barents Sea (primarily cod). Sea mammals, including various species of seal and whale, were hunted to near extinction before being protected by quotas set during the 1900s. Tin is actively mined off the coast of eastern Siberia, and petroleum and natural gas are extracted north of Alaska and Canada and in the North Sea. Atlantic Ocean, the second largest of the earth's four oceans and the most heavily traveled. Only the Pacific Ocean is larger. It covers about twice the area of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic is divided into two nominal sections: The part north of the equator is called the North Atlantic; the part south of the equator, the South Atlantic. The ocean's name is derived from Atlas, one of the Titans of Greek mythology. I BOUNDARIES AND SIZE The Atlantic Ocean is essentially an S-shaped north-south channel, extending from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Antarctic continent in the south and situated between the eastern coast of the American continents and the western coasts of Europe and Africa. The Atlantic Ocean proper has a surface area of about 82 million sq km (about 31,660,000 sq mi). Including its marginal seas—the Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean Sea, the Arctic Ocean, and the North, Baltic, Mediterranean, and Black seas—the total area is about 106,190,000 sq km (about 41 million sq mi). The boundary between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean is arbitrarily designated as lying along a system of submarine ridges that extend between the land masses of Baffin Island, Greenland, and Scotland. More clearly defined is the boundary with the Mediterranean Sea at the Strait of Gibraltar and with the Caribbean Sea along the arc of the Antilles. The South Atlantic is arbitrarily separated from the Indian Ocean on the east by the 20° east meridian and from the Pacific on the west along the line of shallowest depth between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula. II MARINE RESOURCES The Atlantic Ocean contains some of the world's most productive fisheries, located on the continental shelves and marine ridges off the British Isles, Iceland, Canada (especially the Grand Banks off Newfoundland), and the northeastern United States. Upwelling areas, in which the nutrient-rich waters of the ocean depths flow up to the surface, as in the vicinity of Walvis Bay off southwestern Africa, also have abundant sea life. Herring, anchovy, sardine, cod, flounder, and perch are the most important commercial species. Tuna is taken off northwestern Africa and northeastern South America in increasing numbers. The catch per unit area is much higher in the Atlantic than in the other oceans. A remarkable example of plant life is found in the Sargasso Sea, the oval section of the North Atlantic lying between the West Indies and the Azores and bounded on the west and north by the Gulf Stream. Here extensive patches of brown gulfweed (Sargassum) are found on the relatively still surface waters. Actively mined mineral resources in the Atlantic include titanium, zircon, and monazite (phosphates of the cerium metals), off the eastern coast of Florida, and tin and iron ore, off the equatorial coast of Africa. The continental shelves and slopes of the Atlantic are potentially very rich in fossil fuels. Large amounts of petroleum are already being extracted in the North Sea and in the Caribbean Sea-Gulf of Mexico region; lesser amounts are extracted off the coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. Pacific Ocean, largest and deepest of the world's four oceans, covering more than a third of the earth's surface and containing more than half of its free water. It is sometimes divided into two nominal sections: the part north of the equator is called the North Pacific; the part south of the equator, the South Pacific. The name Pacific, which means peaceful, was given to it by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. I BOUNDARIES AND SIZE The Pacific Ocean is bounded on the east by the North and South American continents; on the north by the Bering Strait; on the west by Asia, the Malay Archipelago, and Australia; and on the south by Antarctica. In the southeast it is arbitrarily divided from the Atlantic Ocean by the Drake Passage along 68° west longitude; in the southwest, its separation from the Indian Ocean is not officially designated. Apart from the marginal seas along its irregular western rim, it has an area of about 165 million sq km (about 64 million sq mi), substantially larger than the entire land surface of the globe. Its maximum length is about 15,500 km (about 9600 mi) from the Bering Strait to Antarctica, and its greatest width is about 17,700 km (about 11,000 mi) from Panama to the Malay Peninsula. Its average depth is 4282 m (14,049 ft). The greatest known depth in any of the world's oceans is 11,033 m (36,198 ft) in the Mariana Trench off Guam. II RESOURCES Much of the plant and animal life of the Pacific Ocean is concentrated along its margins. Nutrient-rich waters from the deep Antarctic Circumpolar Current upwell to the surface in the Peru Current along the coast of Chile and Peru, and the area sustains a large population of anchovetas that is of great importance as a world food resource. A large guano industry has been established from droppings of the seabirds that feed upon the anchovetas. The northwestern Pacific, including the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and the Sea of Okhotsk, is another major world fishery. Coral reefs rich with sea life reach their peak in the Great Barrier Reef, which extends for about 2010 km (about 1250 mi) along the northeastern coast of Australia. Tuna is another important Pacific resource, bringing fleets of many nations in search of the schools that migrate over much of the ocean. The Pacific has also begun to be exploited for its vast mineral resources. The continental shelves off the coasts of California, Alaska, China, and the Indonesian area are known to contain large reserves of petroleum. Patches of the ocean floor are covered with "manganese nodules," potato-sized concretions of iron and manganese oxides that sometimes also contain copper, cobalt, and nickel. Programs are under way to examine the feasibility of mining these deposits. Africa, the second largest of the earth’s seven continents, covering about 30,330,000 sq km (about 11,699,000 sq mi), including its adjacent islands. It comprises about 22 percent of the world’s total land area. In 1990 about 12 percent of the world’s population, an estimated 642 million people, lived in Africa, making it the world’s second-most populous continent after Asia. Vegetation African vegetation can be classified according to rainfall and climate zones. The tropical rain forest zone, where the average annual rain is more than 1270 mm (more than 50 in), has a dense surface covering of shrubs, ferns, and mosses, above which tower evergreens, oil palms, and numerous species of tropical hardwood trees. A mountain forest zone, with average annual rainfall only slightly less than in the tropical rain forests, is found in the high mountains of Cameroon, Angola, eastern Africa, and parts of Ethiopia. Here a ground covering of shrubs gives way to oil palms, hardwood trees, and primitive conifers. A savanna woodland zone, with annual rainfall of 890 to 1400 mm (35 to 55 in), covers vast areas with a layer of grass and fire-resistant shrubs, above which are found deciduous and leguminous fire-resistant trees. A savanna grassland zone, with annual rainfall of about 500 to 890 mm (about 20 to 35 in), is covered by low grasses and shrubs and scattered, small deciduous trees. The thornbush zone, a steppe vegetation, with an annual rainfall of about 300 to 510 mm (about 12 to 20 in), has a thinner grass covering and a scattering of succulent or semisucculent trees. The subdesert scrub zone, with an annual rainfall of 130 to 300 mm (5 to 12 in), has a covering of grasses and scattered low shrubs. The zone of desert vegetation, found in areas with an annual rainfall of less than 130 mm (less than 5 in), has sparse vegetation or none at all. Animal Life Africa has two distinct zones of animal life: the North and Northwestern zone, including the Sahara; and the Ethiopian zone, including all of sub-Saharan Africa. The North and Northwestern zone is characterized by animals similar to those of Eurasia. Sheep, goats, horses, and camels are common. Barbary sheep, African red deer, and two types of ibex are native to the northern African coast. Desert foxes are found in the Sahara along with hares, gazelles, and the jerboa, a small leaping rodent. The Ethiopian zone is famous for its great variety of distinctive animals and birds. Woodland and grassland areas are inhabited by numerous species of antelope and deer, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, the African elephant, rhinoceros, and the baboon and various monkeys. Carnivores, or meat-eating animals, include the lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal, and mongoose. The gorilla, the largest ape in the world, inhabits the rain forests of equatorial Africa, as do monkeys, flying squirrels, bats and lemurs. Most bird life belongs to Eurasian groups. The guinea fowl is a leading game bird. Water birds, notably pelicans, goliath herons, flamingos, storks, and egrets, congregate in great numbers. The ibis is common in the Nile region, and the ostrich is found in eastern and southern Africa. Reptiles are mainly of Eurasian origin and include lizards, crocodiles, and tortoises. A variety of venomous snakes, including the mamba, are encountered throughout the Ethiopian zone. Among the constricting snakes, pythons are found mainly in western Africa; boa constrictors are indigenous only to Madagascar. Freshwater fish abound, with more than 2000 species known. The continent has a variety of destructive insects, notably mosquitoes, driver ants, termites, locusts, and tsetse flies. The last named transmit sleeping sickness to humans and animals (in animals, the disease is called nagana). Mineral Resources Africa is very rich in mineral resources, possessing most of the known mineral types of the world, many of which are found in significant quantities, although the geographic distribution is uneven. Fossil fuels are abundant, including major deposits of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Africa has some of the world’s largest reserves of gold, diamonds, copper, bauxite, manganese, nickel, platinum, cobalt, radium, germanium, lithium, titanium, and phosphates. Other important mineral resources include iron ore, chromium, tin, zinc, lead, thorium, zirconium, vanadium, antimony, and beryllium. Also found in exploitable quantities are clays, mica, sulfur, salt, natron, graphite, limestone, and gypsum. Agriculture Despite the expansion of commerce and industry and the importance of these activities to the economy, most Africans remain farmers and herders. In northern and northwestern Africa, wheat, oats, corn, and barley are the important grain crops. Dates, olives, and citrus fruit are the main tree crops; a variety of vegetables are grown. Goats and sheep are the most significant livestock raised. In the Sahara region, nomadic herders raise camels, and a few farmers situated in oases grow dates and grains. South of the Sahara, shifting agriculture—a method in which small areas were burned, cleared, and planted and then allowed to revert to bush—has given way in most areas to settled farming. Grain is the main crop outside the rain forests; rice, yams, cassava, okra, plantains, and bananas are raised for food. Cattle cannot be raised in tsetse fly-infested areas, which cover more than one-third of the continent. Outside tsetse fly areas and dense forests, cattle are raised in large numbers, primarily for beef. Dairy farming is limited, located mainly around urban centers in eastern and southern Africa. Although some 60 percent of all cultivated land is in subsistence agriculture, commercial or cash-crop farming is common in all parts of the continent. Foodstuffs are grown for local urban markets, but coffee, cotton, cacao (cocoa beans), peanuts, palm oil, and tobacco are grown by Africans for export. For certain agricultural exports, such as cacao (cocoa beans), peanuts, cloves, and sisal, Africa produces more than one-half of the world supply. European-owned plantations and farms, found mainly in eastern and southern Africa, concentrate on citrus, tobacco, and other export foodstuffs. Forestry and Fishing Although about one-quarter of Africa is covered by forest, much of the timber has little value except as local fuel. Gabon is a major producer of okoume, a wood used in making plywood; Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria are major exporters of hardwoods. Inland fishing is concentrated in the Great Rift Valley lakes and in the increasing numbers of fish farms. Ocean fishing is widespread for local consumption; it is commercially important off Morocco, Namibia, and South Africa. Mining Mineral extraction provides the bulk of African export earnings, and extractive industries are the most developed sectors in most African economies. Approximately one-half of Africa’s mineral income comes from South Africa; much of this is derived from gold and diamond mining. The other leading mineral-producing countries are Libya (petroleum), Nigeria (petroleum, natural gas, coal, tin), Algeria (petroleum, natural gas, iron ore), and Zambia (copper, cobalt, coal, lead, zinc). Petroleum is also found along the western African coast, in the Gabon Basin, the Republic of the Congo, the DRC, and Angola. Large quantities of uranium are also mined, chiefly in South Africa, Niger, the DRC, the Central African Republic, and Gabon. The largest radium supply in the world is located in the DRC. Some 20 percent of the world copper reserve is concentrated in Zambia, the DRC, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The DRC also possesses about 90 percent of the world’s known cobalt, and Sierra Leone has the largest known titanium reserves. Africa produces some three-quarters of the world’s gold; South Africa, followed by Zimbabwe, the DRC, and Ghana, are the major producers. The mines of South Africa and the DRC produce virtually the entire world supply of gem and industrial diamonds. Iron ore is found in all parts of the continent. Most of Africa’s mineral wealth has been and is being developed by large, multinational concerns. Increasingly, in recent years, African governments have become substantial shareholders in the operations within their own countries. Manufacturing Stemming from mineral and petroleum extraction are processing industries, such as refining and smelting, which are located in most mineral-rich countries with adequate energy. The bulk of Africa’s manufacturing takes place in South Africa. Heavy industry, such as metal producing, machine making, and transportation manufacturing, is concentrated in South Africa. Significant industrial centers have also developed in Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Algeria. Mineral-related industries are well developed in the DRC and Zambia; Kenya, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire have developed primarily in textiles, light industry, and building materials. Throughout much of the rest of Africa, manufacturing is limited to making or assembling consumer goods, such as shoes, bicycles, textiles, food, and beverages. Such industries are often confined by the relatively small size of the consumer market. Energy Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, and Angola are major world producers of petroleum. Africa’s natural-gas exports are centered in Algeria. Coal is concentrated in Zimbabwe and South Africa; the bulk of their production is used internally. The rest of Africa must import fuels. Although Africa has some 40 percent of the world’s hydropower potential, only a relatively small portion has been developed due to high construction costs, inaccessibility of sites, and their distance from markets. Since 1960, however, a number of major hydroelectric installations have been constructed; these include the Aswân High Dam on the Nile River, the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River, and the Kariba Dam and Cabora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River. Algeria officially Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, republic of western North Africa; bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea; on the east by Tunisia and Libya; on the south by Niger, Mali, and Mauritania; and on the west by Morocco. Its total area is 2,381,741 sq km (919,595 sq mi). Natural Resources Most of the natural wealth of Algeria lies in its sizable mineral deposits, notably crude petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, and iron ore. Other minerals include coal, lead, and zinc. The arable land comprises only about 3 percent of the total area and is located mainly in the valleys and plains of the coastal region. Plants and Animals The northern sections of Algeria have suffered from centuries of deforestation and overgrazing. Remnants of forests exist in a few areas of the higher Tell and Saharan Atlas. Trees include pines, Atlas cedar, and various oaks, including cork oak. Lower slopes are bare or covered with a scrub vegetation of juniper and other shrubs. Much of the High Plateau is barren, but tracts of steppe vegetation containing esparto grass and brushwood are present. Plant life in the Sahara is widely scattered and consists of drought-resistant grasses, acacia, and jujube trees. The relatively sparse vegetation of the country can support only a limited wildlife population. Scavengers, such as jackals, hyenas, and vultures, are found in most regions. Fewer antelope, hares, gazelles, and reptiles are also present. Soils Rich soils are rare in Algeria. The most fertile lands, located in the Tell region, nearest the coast, are relatively poor in humus and have suffered from overcultivation. The plains have considerable alluvial deposits, but the uplands have poorer soils and can support only grasses suitable for grazing. Angola, formerly Portuguese West Africa, officially Republic of Angola, independent state in southwestern Africa. Angola is bounded on the north and east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), on the east by Zambia, on the south by Namibia, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. A small exclave, Cabinda, is located some 30 km (about 20 mi) to the north and is bounded on the north by the Republic of the Congo, on the east and south by the DRC, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Angola has a coastline of about 1600 km (about 1000 mi) and a total area of 1,246,700 sq km (481,350 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Luanda. LAND AND RESOURCES Angola is the seventh largest country in Africa, covering an area greater than France and Spain combined. Mineral Resources Angola is rich in mineral resources, and further geological exploration is likely to add to the list of known mineral reserves. Among the most notable resources are petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, manganese, copper, uranium, phosphates, and salt. Vegetation and Animal Life Vegetation varies with the climate. Thick tropical rain forests are found in the north and in the Cabinda exclave. To the south the rain forests give way to savanna, lands of mixed trees and grasses, which in turn grade into grasslands on the south and east. Palm trees are found on much of the coast, and sparse desert vegetation grows south of Namibe. Wildlife is as diverse as the vegetation and includes many of the larger African mammals, such as elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, zebras, antelope, lions, and gorillas. Also found are crocodiles and various birds and insects. Forestry and Fishing The rich rain forests of Cabinda and the northwest furnished 7 million cu m (247 million cu ft) of roundwood for fuel and industrial purposes in 1995. Because of the cool Benguela Current, the waters off the coast of Angola are particularly rich in marine life. Fishing has thus been a traditionally important activity; in 1995 the total catch was 80,723 metric tons, primarily mackerel and sardines. Namibe and Lobito are the principal fishing ports. Mining Petroleum accounts for 90 percent of national exports by value. Most production is from the offshore fields of Cabinda, which were first exploited in the 1960s. The total output of crude petroleum in 1996 was 259 million barrels. Diamonds remain the second most important mineral. Output in 1996 was 4.0 million carats; nearly all were of gem quality. Iron ore, formerly the third most important mineral, has not been produced commercially since 1975 because the mines were partially destroyed during the civil war. Production of salt and natural gas has continued, despite the disruption of the war. Manufacturing The development of the industrial sector has been limited. The principal manufactured products are beverages and processed foods, such as refined sugar, fish meal, flour, and beer. Other products include textiles, cement, glass, and chemicals. Petroleum refineries are located in Cabinda and at Luanda. Energy Angola has great hydroelectric potential in the numerous streams that descend from the central plateau. Hydroelectric plants have been constructed on the Cuanza, Cunene, Dande, and Catumbela rivers. The total production of electric energy in 1996 was 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours, 75 percent of which was generated from hydroelectric plants. At present Angola’s power production potential exceeds its needs. Benin, republic in western Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea. Known in full as the Republic of Benin, it extends inland about 670 km (about 415 mi) from its 121-km (75-mi) long gulf coast. Benin is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso and Niger, on the east by Nigeria, and on the west by Togo. Formerly part of French West Africa, it gained independence in 1960 as Dahomey; it was named Benin in 1975. It has an area of 112,622 sq km (43,484 sq mi). Porto-Novo is the capital and Cotonou is the largest city. LAND AND RESOURCES The coast of Benin is a sandy barrier beach with no natural harbors. Immediately north of the beach is a network of shallow lagoons, and farther north is a fertile lowland called the barre country, most of which is intensively cultivated. In northern Benin the land rises to include the edge of a nearly 500-m (1600-ft) high plateau of ancient rocks and mostly infertile soils and, in the northwest, the rugged Atakora Mountains. Rivers and Lakes The Ouémé and Kouffo rivers drain most of southern Benin, and the Mono River, which forms part of the border with Togo, drains the southwest. The main rivers of northern Benin are the Niger, which forms part of the boundary with the republic of Niger, and its tributaries, the Sota, Mékrou, and Alibori rivers. Plants and Animals A dense tropical rain forest once covered much of the land close behind Benin's coastal strip. The rain forest has largely been cleared, except near rivers, and palms now are the main trees of the region. Woodlands form a large part of central Benin, and grasslands predominate in the drier north. Among the various animals found in Benin are elephants, buffalo, antelope, panthers, monkeys, crocodiles, and wild ducks. Natural Resources An offshore petroleum field is located near Cotonou. Other mineral resources of Benin include iron ore, phosphates, chromium, rutile, clay, marble, and limestone. Forestry and Fishing Commercial forestry and fishing are largely undeveloped in Benin. Almost all of the estimated 5.9 million cu m (208 million cu ft) of wood cut in 1995 was used for fuel. Similarly, most of the 39,000 metric tons of fish produced annually are caught in inland rivers and in lagoons for subsistence use. Relatively small amounts of shrimp are landed on a commercial basis. Mining and Manufacturing Benin's chief mineral product is petroleum, although reserves are believed to be nearing exhaustion. Some limestone is also produced for use in cement manufacturing, and gold is exploited and used by artisans. Most other mineral resources are undeveloped. The chief manufacturing activity is the processing of primary products. Industry includes palm oil processing operations, textile mills, a cement plant, and a sugar-refining complex. A wire and steel manufacturing plant recently opened. Cameroon, republic in western Africa, bounded on the north by Lake Chad; on the east by Chad and the Central African Republic; on the south by the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea; and on the west by the Bight of Biafra (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean) and Nigeria. The country is shaped like an elongated triangle, and forms a bridge between western Africa and central Africa. The country has a total area of 475,442 sq km (183,569 sq mi). Yaoundé is the capital, and Douala is the largest city. LAND AND RESOURCES Cameroon has four distinct topographical regions. In the south is a coastal plain, a region of dense equatorial rain forests. In the center is the Adamawa Plateau, a region with elevations reaching about 1370 m (about 4500 ft) above sea level. This is a transitional area where forest gives way in the north to savanna country. In the far north the savanna gradually slopes into the marshland surrounding Lake Chad. In the west is an area of high, forested mountains of volcanic origin. Located here is Cameroon Mountain (4095 m/13,435 ft), the highest peak in western Africa and an active volcano. The country’s most fertile soils are found in this region. Among the principal streams, the Sanaga and Nyong rivers flow generally west to the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mbéré and Logone rivers flow north from the central plateau into Lake Chad. A network of rivers in the Chad Basin, including the Benue River, links the country with the vast Niger River system to the east and north. Plants and Animals Cameroon’s valuable rain forests contain a number of species of trees, including oil palms, bamboo palms, mahogany, teak, ebony, and rubber. Wildlife is diverse and abundant and includes monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, antelope, lions, and elephants, as well as numerous species of birds and snakes. Natural Resources The economy of Cameroon is dependent primarily on its agricultural and timber resources, although receipts from petroleum reserves constitute a primary source of government revenue. High-yield deposits of bauxite exist in northern Cameroon. A significant reserve of natural gas is found near Douala, but it remains unexploited. A small amount of gold is mined. Hydroelectric potential is significant; the largest power station is at Edéa, on the Sanaga River. Agriculture The principal commercial crops in Cameroon are cacao, coffee, tobacco, cotton, and bananas. In 1997 production of cacao and coffee, the leading agricultural export commodities, was 120,000 metric tons for the former and 60,000 metric tons for the latter. Other commercial products include rubber, palm products, and sugarcane. Subsistence crops include plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, corn, and millet. Livestock raising is important in the Adamawa Plateau region. In 1997 the livestock population included 4.9 million head of cattle, 3.8 million goats, 3.8 million million sheep, and 1.4 million pigs. Forestry and Fishing Timber is traditionally one of Cameroon’s most valuable exports, consisting mainly of mahogany, ebony, and teak. The timber cut in 1995 amounted to 15.7 million cu m (555 million cu ft). Fishing is dominated by freshwater subsistence activity. However, deep-sea fishing activity is increasing, especially from the port of Douala. Some 80,000 metric tons of fish are caught annually. Mining and Manufacturing One of the largest single industrial enterprises in Cameroon is the aluminum smelting plant at Edéa, which produces 92,000 metric tons annually from imported bauxite. The processing of agricultural products, however, dominates industrial activity; other manufactures include textiles, fertilizers, and cement. Offshore petroleum exploitation began in the late 1970s, and an oil refinery has been built on the coast at Limboh Point. Cameroon’s output of crude petroleum, mostly for export, was 34 million barrels in 1996. Small amounts of gold and tin concentrates are also produced. Central African Republic, republic in central Africa, bordered on the north by Chad, on the east by Sudan, on the south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo, and on the west by Cameroon. The landlocked nation has an area of 622,436 sq km (240,324 sq mi). Bangui is the capital and largest city. LAND AND RESOURCES The Central African Republic is situated on the northern edge of the Congo River Basin. Most of the land is a plateau that ranges in elevation from about 610 to 790 m (about 2000 to 2600 ft). Two ranges of hills in the north and northeast rise to maximum heights of about 1400 m (about 4600 ft). Most of the country has a savanna vegetation—a grassland interspersed with trees. Open grassland is found in the extreme north, and a dense rain forest covers the major part of the southwestern area. The country is drained by several major rivers, the Bamingui and Ouham rivers in the north, and the Ubangi, a tributary of the Congo, in the south. Natural Resources The mineral resources of this primarily agricultural country are relatively undeveloped. Diamonds are the dominant exploited mineral. Deposits of uranium exist, as well as iron ore, gold, lime, zinc, copper, and tin. Commercially valuable trees include the sapele mahogany and the obeche. Almost every animal of the African Tropics is found in the country. Agriculture and Forestry Only 3 percent of the total land area is used for growing crops. Basic food crops include cassava, plantains, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and millet. In order to increase the wage-earning power of the peasant farmer, the government has organized agricultural cooperatives, placing primary emphasis on introducing new crops that are expected to produce a higher income. The cultivation of tobacco, sesame, and rice is encouraged by the government. The most important cash crop is coffee, once grown mostly on European-owned plantations, but now produced largely on smaller African-owned farms. In 1997 coffee production was 18,000 metric tons. Cotton, which is widely cultivated, is also a leading cash crop and represents a significant portion of export earnings. Exploitation of forest reserves was slow to develop but has increased in importance. In 1995 some 3.9 million cu m (136 million cu ft) of roundwood were produced. Timber accounted for 8 percent of export revenues in the early 1990s. Manufacturing and Mining Manufacturing activity in the Central African Republic is very limited. Products include cottonseed, peanut, and sesame oils; textiles; leather goods; tobacco products; soap; flour; bricks; and paint. The output of electricity in 1996 was 100 million kilowatt-hours, 80 percent of which was generated in hydroelectric installations. Gem diamonds account for nearly all the country's mineral output and two-thirds of its export revenue. Production was 350,000 carats in 1996. Uranium was discovered in the eastern part of the country in 1966, but production is awaiting improvement in international prices. A small amount of gold is mined, mostly by individual prospectors. Republic of the Congo, republic in west central Africa, bounded on the north by Cameroon and the Central African Republic, on the east and south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), on the southwest by Angola (Cabinda enclave) and the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by Gabon. Formerly called People’s Republic of the Congo, the republic has an area of 342,000 sq km (132,000 sq mi). Brazzaville is the capital and largest city. LAND AND RESOURCES Along the Atlantic coast is a low, treeless plain, which rises inland to the Mayumbe Mountains, an almost completely forested region with an average elevation of about 550 m (about 1800 ft). In the south central region is the fertile valley of the Niari River. To the north lies the central highlands region, the Plateau Batéké. The plateau is cut by numerous tributaries of the Congo and Ubangi rivers. The Congo Basin occupies the northeastern part of the country. Dense tropical rain forests cover more than half of the country and constitute a major natural resource. The principal commercial species are okoumé (a mahogany) and limba (a hardwood). Savanna vegetation is found in the northeast and the higher plateau areas. Wildlife is diverse and abundant, including antelope, giraffes, cheetahs, crocodiles, and numerous birds and snakes. The climate is tropical, with mostly high heat and humidity. While the Mayumbe Mountains experience a long dry season, parts of the Congo Basin receive more than 2500 mm (more than 100 in) of rainfall annually. Average temperatures in Brazzaville are 26° C (78° F) in January and 23° C (73° F) in July, with an annual rainfall of about 1500 mm (about 60 in). Temperatures along the coast are slightly cooler. Petroleum, found offshore, is the Congo’s principal mineral resource. Other resources include potash, gold, iron ore, lead, and copper. Agriculture Cassava, pineapples, plantains, bananas, peanuts, maize, and avocados are the principal subsistence crops raised in the Congo. The main cash crops are sugarcane, palm kernels, cacao, and coffee. The most successful commercial agricultural operations are in the fertile Niari Valley. Forestry and Mining Forest products account for a substantial share of the Congo’s exports. Petroleum is produced from offshore oil fields, and crude oil typically accounts for about three-quarters of the country’s yearly exports. The output of crude petroleum in 1995 was 64 million barrels and is expected to increase as a new offshore field is developed. In addition, natural gas, lead, copper, and gold are mined. Manufacturing Industry is oriented mainly toward producing consumer goods. The largest industries process agricultural products (including tobacco) and forest products. Other manufactures include textiles, cement, footwear, and soap. A petroleum refinery began operation at Pointe-Noire in 1976. Egypt, officially Arab Republic of Egypt, country in northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Israel and the Red Sea, on the south by Sudan, and on the west by Libya. The country has a maximum length from north to south of about 1085 km (about 675 mi) and a maximum width, near the southern border, of about 1255 km (about 780 mi). It has a total area of 997,739 sq km (385,229 sq mi). Cairo is the capital and largest city. The land of the Nile River, Egypt is the cradle of one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations and has a recorded history that dates from about 3200 BC. The descriptive material that follows is pertinent to modern Egypt. The History section covers Egypt from ancient times, including the Dynastic Period (3200 BC-343 BC), the Hellenistic Period (332 BC-30 BC), Roman and Byzantine Rule (30 BC-AD 638), the Caliphate and the Mamelukes (642-1517), Ottoman Domination (1517-1882), and British colonialism (1882-1952) as well as modern, independent Egypt (1952- ). LAND AND RESOURCES Less than one-tenth of the land area of Egypt is settled or under cultivation. This territory consists of the valley and delta of the Nile, a number of desert oases, and land along the Suez Canal. More than 90 percent of the country consists of desert areas, including the Libyan Desert in the west, a part of the Sahara, and the Arabian Desert (also called the Eastern Desert), which borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, in the east. The Libyan Desert (also known as the Western Desert) includes a vast sandy expanse called the Great Sand Sea. Located here are several depressions with elevations below sea level, including the Qattara Depression, which has an area of about 18,000 sq km (about 7000 sq mi) and reaches a depth of 133 m (436 ft) below sea level; also found here are the oases of Siwa, Khârijah, Baḩrîyah, Farafra, and Dakhla. Much of the Arabian Desert occupies a plateau that rises gradually east from the Nile Valley to elevations of about 600 m (about 2000 ft) in the east and is broken along the Red Sea coast by jagged peaks as high as about 2100 m (about 7000 ft) above sea level. In the extreme south, along the border with Sudan, is the Nubian Desert, an extensive region of dunes and sandy plains. The Sinai Peninsula consists of sandy desert in the north and rugged mountains in the south, with summits looming more than about 2100 m (about 7000 ft) above the Red Sea. Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrînah) (2637 m/8652 ft), the highest elevation in Egypt, is in the Sinai Peninsula, as is Mount Sinai (Jabal Mosá), where, according to the Old Testament, Moses received the Ten Commandments. The Nile enters Egypt from Sudan and flows north for about 1545 km (about 960 mi) to the Mediterranean Sea. For its entire length from the southern border to Cairo, the Nile flows through a narrow valley lined by cliffs. Lake Nasser, a huge reservoir formed by the Aswân High Dam, extends south across the Sudan border. The lake is about 480 km (about 300 mi) long and is 16 km (10 mi) across at its widest point. About two-thirds of the lake lies in Egypt. South of a point near the town of Idfû, the Nile Valley is rarely more than 3 km (2 mi) wide. From Idfû to Cairo, the valley averages 23 km (14 mi) in width, with most of the arable portion on the western side. In the vicinity of Cairo the valley merges with the delta, a fan-shaped plain, the perimeter of which occupies about 250 km (about 155 mi) of the Mediterranean coastline. Silt deposited by the Rosetta (Arabic Rashid), Damietta (Arabic Dumyat), and other distributaries has made the delta the most fertile region in the country. However, the Aswân High Dam has reduced the flow of the Nile, causing the salty waters of the Mediterranean to erode land along the coast near the Nile. A series of four shallow, brackish lakes extends along the seaward extremity of the delta. Another larger lake, Birkat Qârûn, is situated inland in the desert north of the town of Al Fayyûm. Geographically and traditionally, the Nile Valley is divided into two regions, Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, the former consisting of the delta area and the latter comprising the valley south of Cairo. Although Egypt has about 2450 km (1520 mi) of coastline, two-thirds of which are on the Red Sea, indentations suitable as harbors are confined to the delta. The Isthmus of Suez, which connects the Sinai Peninsula with the African mainland, is traversed from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Suez by the Suez Canal. Natural Resources Egypt has a wide variety of mineral deposits, some of which, such as gold and red granite, have been exploited since ancient times. The chief mineral resource of contemporary value is petroleum, found mainly in the Red Sea coastal region, at Al ‘Alamayn (El ‘Alamein) on the Mediterranean, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Other minerals include phosphates, manganese, iron ore, and uranium. Natural gas is also extracted. Plants and Animals The vegetation of Egypt is confined largely to the Nile delta, the Nile Valley, and the oases. The most widespread of the few indigenous trees is the date palm. Others include the sycamore, tamarisk, acacia, and carob. Trees that have been introduced from other lands include the cypress, elm, eucalyptus, mimosa, and myrtle, and various types of fruit trees. The alluvial soils of Egypt, especially in the delta, sustain a broad variety of plant life, including grapes, many kinds of vegetables, and such flowers as the lotus, jasmine, and rose. In the arid regions alfa grass and several species of thorn are common. Papyrus, once prevalent along the banks of the Nile, is now limited to the extreme south of the country. Because of its arid climate Egypt has few indigenous wild animals. Gazelles are found in the deserts, and the desert fox, hyena, jackal, wild ass, boar, jerboa, and ichneumon inhabit various areas, mainly the delta and the mountains along the Red Sea. Among the reptiles of Egypt are lizards and several kinds of poisonous snakes, including the asp and the horned viper. The crocodile and hippopotamus, common in the lower Nile and Nile delta in antiquity, are now restricted to the upper Nile. Birdlife is abundant, especially in the Nile delta and Nile Valley. The country has approximately 300 species of birds, including the sunbird, golden oriole, egret, hoopoe, plover, pelican, flamingo, heron, stork, quail, and snipe. Birds of prey found in Egypt include eagles, falcons, vultures, owls, kites, and hawks. Many species of insects are found in Egypt—beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and fleas being especially numerous; scorpions are found in desert areas. About 100 species of fish can be found in the Nile and in the deltaic lakes. Agriculture Egypt is predominantly an agricultural country, with about 40 percent of the labor force engaged in crop farming, herding, or fishing. The pattern of land ownership was greatly altered by the Agricultural Reform Decree of 1952, which limited individual holdings to about 80 hectares (about 200 acres), a figure revised in 1961 to about 40 hectares (about 100 acres), and revised again to about 20 hectares (about 50 acres) in 1969. Lands requisitioned by the government were distributed to the fellahin (peasants), but an economic gap still remains between the middle-class farmers and the fellahin. Government programs have expanded arable areas through reclamation, irrigation (notably since the completion of the Aswân High Dam in 1970), and the use of advanced technology (fertilizers, mechanized equipment). The yields of Egyptian farmlands are now among the highest in the world. Egypt is one of the world’s leading producers of long-staple (long-fibered) cotton. Annual cotton lint production in 1997 was about 890,000 metric tons. Warm weather and plentiful water permit as many as three crops a year, giving Egypt abundant agricultural yields. In the early 1990s principal crops, ranked by estimated value and annual production in metric tons, included rice (3.9 million), tomatoes (4.7 million), wheat (4.6 million), maize (5.2 million), sugarcane (11.6 million), potatoes (1.8 million), and oranges (1.7 million). A wide variety of other vegetables and fruits are also grown. The principal pastoral industry of Egypt is the breeding of beasts of burden. The livestock population in 1997 included 2.7 million cattle, 2.8 million buffalo, 3.5 million sheep, 3.2 million goats, 1.7 million asses, and 52 million poultry. Fishing Egypt has a significant fishing industry. In 1995 the annual catch was 302,800 metric tons. Among the most productive areas are the shallow deltaic lakes, Birkat Qârûn, and the Red Sea. The formerly productive sardine fisheries along the Mediterranean coast have been greatly depleted since the construction of the Aswân High Dam. A fishing industry is being developed in Lake Nasser. Mining Crude petroleum, which accounts for 37 percent of export earnings, is the most important mineral product of Egypt. Production was about 26.4 million barrels annually in the early 1960s. As a result of the discovery in the 1950s and 1960s of large new fields in the Al ‘Alamayn and Gulf of Suez areas, and a major exploration effort in the 1970s, annual production of crude petroleum increased to 337 million barrels in 1996. Proven reserves stood at 6.2 billion barrels in 1992 as Egypt renewed exploration, signing 12 agreements with foreign companies to drill new wells. The country is encouraging natural gas production to supply domestic energy needs, with annual extraction in 1996 of 17.9 billion cu m (631 billion cu ft). Other important products of the mining industry in the early 1990s included phosphate rock (1.5 million metric tons), iron ore (1.2 million tons metal content), and salt (1.1 million tons). Uranium ore began to be mined near Aswân in 1991. Republic of South Africa southernmost country in Africa, bordered on the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland; on the east and south by the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Lesotho forms an enclave in the northeastern part of the country. South Africa has a diverse and dramatic landscape. Most of the interior is covered by high plateaus, which are separated from the country’s long coastline by chains of tall mountains. South Africa is rich in minerals such as gold and diamonds, and its industrial base grew up around the mining industry. Black Africans comprise three quarters of South Africa’s population, and whites, Coloureds (people of mixed race), and Asians (mainly Indians) make up the remainder. Among the black population there are numerous ethnic groups and 11 official languages. Until recently, whites dominated the nonwhite majority population under the political system of racial segregation known as apartheid. Apartheid ended in the early 1990s, but South Africa is still recovering from the racial inequalities in political power, opportunity, and lifestyle. The end of apartheid led to the lifting of trade sanctions against South Africa imposed by the international community. It also led to a total reorganization of the government, which since 1994 has been a nonracial democracy based on majority rule. South Africa is divided into nine provinces. These provinces are Gauteng, Northern Province, Mpumalanga, North-West Province, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. The country has three capitals: Cape Town is the legislative capital; Pretoria, the executive capital; and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital. LAND AND RESOURCES South Africa stretches for some 1500 km (950 mi) from east to west and 1000 km (640 mi) from north to south. It has an area of 1,219,090 sq km (470,693 sq mi). A ridge called the Great Escarpment forms a boundary between the interior plateaus and the coastal regions. Natural Regions The interior plateaus occupy about two-thirds of South Africa, reaching their greatest height in the southeastern Drakensberg Mountains, part of the Great Escarpment. Champagne Castle, a peak of the Drakensberg, is the highest point in the country at 3375 m (11,072 ft). The plateau region consists of three main areas: the High Veld, the Middle Veld, and the Bush Veld. The High Veld, the largest of the three areas, is the southern continuation of the great African plateau that stretches north to the Sahara Desert. In South Africa it ranges in elevation from about 1200 to 1800 m (about 4000 to 6000 ft) and is characterized by level or gently sloping terrain. Land use varies from cattle grazing in the west to mixed farming (both crops and livestock) in the center to growing grain, especially maize (corn), in the east. The northern boundary of the High Veld is marked by the gold-bearing reef of the Witwatersrand, which became the industrial heartland of South Africa in the 20th century. West of the High Veld is the Middle Veld, which lies mainly at an elevation of 600 to 1200 m (2000 to 4000 ft). The Middle Veld is part of the larger Kalahari Basin that extends north to Botswana and Namibia and contains the southernmost portion of the Kalahari Desert. Surface water is rare in the Middle Veld because the soils, which consist largely of unconsolidated sand, quickly absorb rainfall. Plant life in this arid place is limited to drought-resistant grasses, bushes, and shrubs. Much of the area is used for sheep grazing. North of the High Veld is the Bush Veld (also called the Transvaal Basin). This region averages less than 1200 m (4000 ft) in elevation. It is broken into basins by rock ridges, and slopes downward from the Transvaal Drakensberg in the east to the Limpopo River in the west. The Bush Veld receives more rain than the High Veld or Middle Veld and includes large areas of intensive cultivation as well as mixed-farming and cattle-grazing districts. Between the edge of the high central plateau region and the eastern and southern coastline the land descends in a series of abrupt steps. In the east an interior belt of hill country gives way to a low-lying plain known as the Eastern Low Veld. In the south two plateaus, the Great, or Central, Karoo and the Little, or Southern, Karoo, are situated above the coastal plain. The plateau of the Great Karoo is separated from the lower Little Karoo by the Swartberg mountain range. A second range, the Langeberg, separates the Little Karoo from the coastal plain. Both the plateaus and the coastal plain are areas of mixed farming. The southwestern edge of the central plateau region is marked by irregular ranges of folded mountains which descend abruptly to a narrow coastal plain, broken by the isolated peak of Table Mountain. The lower parts of this southwestern region are the centers of wine and fruit industries. Rivers and Lakes The chief rivers are the Orange, Vaal, and Limpopo. The Orange is the longest, stretching about 2100 km (about 1300 mi). It rises in Lesotho, where it is called the Senqu, and flows northwestward to the Atlantic, forming the boundary with Namibia along the river’s westernmost section. The Vaal rises in the northeast, near Swaziland, and flows southwestward to its confluence with the Orange. The Limpopo rises further north, flowing northeastward to the Botswana border and then eastward along the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders until it enters Mozambique, where it empties into the Indian Ocean. Many shorter rivers flow south to the Indian Ocean, including the Sondags, Great Fish, and Kei in the Eastern Cape, and the Tugela in KwaZulu-Natal. Most of South Africa’s rivers are irregular in flow and are dry during much of the year. Consequently, they are of little use for navigation or hydroelectric power, but of some use for irrigation and water supply. The Orange River Project, begun in 1962, transfers water from the Orange River to the Great Fish and Sondags river basins. In the late 1970s, water began to be pumped from the Tugela to the Vaal to meet the growing needs of the Witwatersrand industrial region. This is supplemented by the major Lesotho Highlands Water Project, begun in 1986, which diverts water from the Senqu and other rivers. With the exception of Fundudzi Lake, which was formed by a huge landslide in the northeastern Soutpansberg Range, South Africa’s only notable lakes are artificial, including those created by the Vaal Dam and Gariep Dam on the Orange River. Plant and Animal Life South Africa has remarkably diverse plant life for a country of its size, comprising about 22,000 different species, many of them native. Grasslands cover most of the plateau areas, resembling a prairie on the nearly treeless High Veld. The Bush Veld is characterized by savanna vegetation, consisting of mixed grassland with trees and bushes such as the baobab tree in Northern Province and the mopani tree in the central Bush Veld. On the Great Karoo and Little Karoo, the grasslands are sparse. Vegetation consists of coarse desert grasses that grow in tufts and become green only after rain. The semidesert Northern Cape is transformed after spring rains with blooming wildflowers in the Namaqualand region. Areas on the Cape Peninsula, and about 70,000 sq km (about 27,500 sq mi) of southern Western Cape Province, contain the distinctive Fynbos biome, an ecological community. Although relatively small in area, this region constitutes one of the six recognized floral kingdoms of the world. It includes 8500 plant species, of which more than 6000 are indigenous. This biome is home to the protea, an evergreen shrub for which South Africa is renowned. The only significant forests in South Africa lie along the coasts of Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, although there are patches of protected rain forest in the Eastern Low Veld. Hardwood species such as yellowwood, ironwood, and lemonwood trees are found in these areas, but softwoods are scarce; coniferous pines from Europe and North America have been planted to provide timber and wood pulp. Numerous large mammals, including lions, elephants, zebras, leopards, monkeys, baboons, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and antelope, are indigenous to South Africa. For the most part such animals are found only on game reserves. Much of Kruger National Park, the oldest game reserve, was a protected area as early as 1898. It covers an area of 19,485 sq km (7523 sq mi) along the Mozambique border. Kruger National Park includes nearly every species of indigenous wildlife and is particularly noted for the small black rhino population built up by the National Parks Board. Other notable reserves include Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in the northwest; Addo Elephant National Park, near Port Elizabeth; and Mountain Zebra National Park, near Cradock. Bird life is abundant and includes the larger birds: ostrich, francolin (a type of partridge) quail, guinea fowl, and grouse. Snakes are common in most of the country. Natural Resources Only 12 percent of South Africa’s land area is cultivated and only 7 percent is forested, but the country is rich in mineral resources. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of gold, with almost all of it coming from the Witwatersrand. Gold is mined to depths below 3000 m (10,000 ft), making production expensive. Uranium is also extracted commercially in the Witwatersrand. Vast, easily worked coal seams occur between Lesotho and Swaziland, and South Africa has become a leading coal exporter. The Bush Veld Igneous Complex, a highly mineralized area of 50,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi) located mainly in Northern Province and Mpumalanga, contains a high proportion of the world reserves of several important minerals. It contains 69 percent of world reserves of chrome ore, 45 percent of vanadium, and about 90 percent of andalusite, as well as platinum, nickel, and fluorspar. Diamonds are another important source of South Africa’s mineral wealth. Most of South Africa’s diamond fields are located in the Kimberley area of Northern Cape; this province also has the largest known manganese deposits in the world. Antarctica, fifth largest of the earth’s seven continents. The southernmost, coldest, windiest, highest, most remote, and most recently discovered continent, it surrounds the South Pole, the point at the southern end of the earth’s axis. Almost completely covered by ice, Antarctica has no permanent human population. The continent is ringed by the Southern, or Antarctic, Ocean, a body of water made up of the southern portions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans but sometimes considered a separate ocean due to its lower temperature and salt concentration. The entire area south of the Antarctic Convergence, the zone where the Southern Ocean meets the other oceans, is referred to as the Antarctic region. Antarctica means "opposite to the Arctic," the earth’s northernmost region. The continent is shaped somewhat like a comma, with a round body surrounding the pole and a tail curving toward South America. The round portion, lying mainly in the eastern hemisphere, makes up East Antarctica. The tail and its thickened base, located entirely in the western hemisphere, form West Antarctica. Antarctica lies about 1000 km (about 600 mi) from South America, its nearest neighbor; about 4000 km (about 2500 mi) from Africa; and about 2500 km (about 1600 mi) from Australia. Antarctica’s latitude (location in relation to the equator) and high elevations make it the coldest continent. Air temperatures of the high inland regions fall below –80° C (-110° F) in winter and rise only to about –30° C (about –20° F) in summer. The warmest coastal regions reach the freezing point in summer but drop well below in winter. The last continent to be discovered, Antarctica remained hidden behind barriers of fog, storm, and sea ice until it was first sighted in the early 19th century. Because of the extreme cold and the lack of native peoples, forests, land animals, and obvious natural resources, the continent remained largely neglected for decades after discovery. Scientific expeditions and seal hunters had explored only fragments of its coasts by the end of the 19th century, while the interior remained unknown. Explorers first reached the South Pole in 1911, and the first permanent settlements—scientific stations—were established in the early 1940s. From that time the pace of exploration accelerated rapidly. Scientists continue to conduct research in Antarctica, and in recent years increasing numbers of tourists have visited Antarctica to appreciate the region’s majestic scenery and wildlife. Seven nations—Argentina, Australia, Britain, Chile, France, New Zealand, and Norway—claim territory in Antarctica. Other nations, including the United States and Russia, do not acknowledge these claims and make no claims of their own, but reserve rights to claim territory in the future. Since 1961 the continent has been administered under the Antarctic Treaty, an international agreement to preserve the continent for peaceful scientific study. Mineral Resources Although only about 1 percent of the continent’s ice-free areas have been surveyed for minerals, evidence indicates that Antarctica contains rich mineral deposits. The Transantarctic Mountains contain huge deposits of coal as well as copper, lead, zinc, silver, tin, and gold. The Prince Charles Mountains of East Antarctica are rich in iron ore; the Antarctic Peninsula contains copper and molybdenum ores; and the Dufek Massif includes ores of chromium, platinum, copper, and nickel. It is also believed that deposits of petroleum and natural gas exist in the continental shelf regions, such as the area under the Ross Sea. Although Antarctica has prospects for mineral development, there are concerns about the potential environmental and political impacts of this development. In 1991 the signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty agreed to a 50-year moratorium on commercial mining activity. The only mineral resources currently used are sand, gravel, and crushed rocks for constructing airstrips and building foundations at the scientific stations. Asia, the largest of the earth’s seven continents, lying almost entirely in the northern hemisphere. With outlying islands, it covers an estimated 44,936,000 sq km (17,350,000 sq mi), or about one-third of the world’s total land area. Its peoples account for three-fifths of the world’s population; in the mid-1990s Asia had an estimated 3.46 billion inhabitants. Most geographers regard Asia as bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Bering Strait and the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the southwest by the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. On the west, the conventional boundary between Europe and Asia is drawn at the Ural Mountains, continuing south along the Ural River to the Caspian Sea, then west along the Caucasus Mountains to the Black Sea. Some geographers include Europe and Asia together in a larger Eurasian region, noting that western Asian countries, such as Turkey, merge almost imperceptibly into Europe. The continental mainland stretches from the southern end of the Malay Peninsula to Cape Chelyuskin in Siberia. Its westernmost point is Cape Baba in northwestern Turkey, and its easternmost point is Cape Dezhnyov in northeastern Siberia. The continent’s greatest width from east to west is about 8500 km (about 5300 mi). In Asia are found both the lowest and highest points on the earth’s surface, namely, the shore of the Dead Sea (408 m/1339 ft below sea level in 1996) and Mount Everest (8848 m/29,028 ft above sea level). South of the mainland in the Indian Ocean are Sri Lanka and smaller island groups, such as the Maldives and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. To the southeast is an array of archipelagoes and islands that extend east to the Oceanic and Australian realms. Among these islands are those of Indonesia, including Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Borneo. The western end of the island of New Guinea is within Indonesia and for that reason geographers occasionally consider it as part of Asia. In this encyclopedia, however, it is treated as a part of the Pacific Islands. The Philippine Islands, which include Luzon and Mindanao, are also among the Southeast Asian islands. To their north lie Taiwan, the Chinese island of Hainan, the islands of Japan, and the Russian island of Sakhalin. Because of its vast size and diverse character, Asia is divided into five major realms. These are as follows: East Asia, including China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan; Southeast Asia, including Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines; South Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, and Bhutan; and Southwest Asia, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the other states of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of the countries of Southwest Asia are also considered part of the Middle East, a loosely defined region that includes Cyprus and Egypt. Afghanistan and Myanmar are sometimes considered part of South Asia, but most geographers place Afghanistan in Southwest Asia and Myanmar in Southeast Asia. The fifth realm consists of the area of Russia that lies east of the Ural Mountains (Russian Asia) and the states of Central Asia that were formerly part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). These states are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. The continent may also be divided into two broad cultural realms: that which is predominantly Asian in culture (East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia) and that which is not (Southwest Asia, Central Asia, and Russian Asia). There is enormous cultural diversity within both regions, however. Rivers, Lakes, and Inland Seas East Asia is the location of the continent’s longest river, the Yangtze, which flows about 5470 km (about 3400 mi) eastward from Tibet to the East China Sea. The Huang He (Yellow River) also rises in the Tibetan highlands, flowing east across central China to its mouth at the Yellow Sea. The Zhu Jiang (Pearl River) rises in southwestern China and flows through the southern part of the country on its route to the South China Sea. In Southeast Asia the major rivers flow southward between mountain ranges. The Mekong rises in eastern Tibet and flows southeast to the South China Sea. The Salween also originates in Tibet, where it is called the Nu Jiang, flowing south to the Andaman Sea. The Irrawaddy, which rises in the mountains of northern Myanmar, also empties into the Andaman Sea. The major rivers of South Asia have their sources in the Himalayas. The Ganges rises in the western Himalayas and passes eastward through India. Just north of the Bay of Bengal it joins the Brahmaputra River, which rises beyond the Himalayas and then empties into the bay. The Indus River emerges from the western end of the Himalayas and flows through Jammu and Kashmîr and western Pakistan into the Arabian Sea. The only large rivers of Southwest Asia are the Tigris and the Euphrates. Both rivers rise in Turkey and flow southward through Syria into Iraq, where they join before emptying into the Persian Gulf. The three longest rivers of Russian Asia are the Ob’, the Yenisey, and the Lena, all of which are more than 3200 km (2000 mi) long. These rivers rise in southern Siberia and flow northward into the Arctic Ocean. River basins in tropical and temperate Asia support the highest population densities. The Gangetic Plain, which lies between the Himalayas and the Deccan Plateau; the basins of the Irrawaddy, Mekong, and Chao Phraya in Southeast Asia; and the basins of China’s great rivers, especially the Yangtze, Huang He, and Zhu Jiang rivers, are all densely settled. These valleys have fertile soils for agriculture and the rivers serve as a means of transportation. Some of Asia’s important rivers flow into inland lakes. The Jordan River rises in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria and flows southward into the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake seven times more salty than the ocean. At 408 m (1339 ft) below sea level, the surface of the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. The Syr Darya and the Amu Darya of Central Asia both drain into the Aral Sea, also a saltwater lake. Since the 1960s the diversion of much water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya for irrigation has caused the Aral Sea to shrink to less than half its former size. In 1988 the lake split in two, forming the Large Aral Sea, which receives water from the Amu Darya, and the Small Aral Sea, which receives water from the Syr Darya. The decreased water intake has also increased the salt content of the lake. The Caspian Sea is the largest saltwater lake in the world. Lake Balqash in Kazakhstan is another major saltwater lake. Lake Baikal in southeastern Siberia is the deepest lake in the world and the largest freshwater lake in Asia. The Tônlé Sap, a shallow lake in western Cambodia, is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. It provides a lucrative source of fish for local residents. The Tônlé Sap becomes more than three times its normal size between June and October when floodwaters of the Mekong River empty into the lake. Vegetation Asia incorporates many different biomes, which are landscapes having similar combinations of climate, vegetation, and animal life. The northernmost areas of Asia, which experience a subpolar climate, have tundra vegetation consisting of grasses, mosses, and other small plants. Farther inland from the Arctic coast, the tundra gives way to the taiga, a region of vast coniferous forests composed of such trees as spruce, larch, and fir. Farther south, the taiga merges with forests of broadleaf trees, or mixed forests of broadleaf and needleleaf trees. In Asia’s north central interior the forests merge into vast grasslands, much of which is short, steppe grasses. Large portions of Southwest Asia and the continent’s interior have semiarid or desert vegetation. Short grasses and other vegetation that require minimal precipitation surround many of the most barren areas in the deserts. Although tropical rain forest predominates along the southern coastal strip and on the island of Sri Lanka, the eastern side of South Asia is characterized by semiarid tropical vegetation. The Deccan Plateau has mainly tropical dry forest vegetation. Mainland and island Southeast Asia once supported extensive areas of tropical rain forest, which thrived in the warm, moist climate. Significant tracts of forest remain in most countries, but both legal and illegal harvesting is too rapid to support sustainable regrowth. Inland from the coastal strips of mainland Southeast Asia and stretching into southern China, tropical seasonal forests predominate. These merge into temperate forests farther north. Around the rim of the Bo Hai gulf the vegetation is chaparral, woody shrubs that grow to about 4 m (about 13 ft) in height. Asia has three main crop production systems. Across a broad band encompassing the Middle East, Central Asia, much of Russian Asia, and the inner regions of China, subsistence livestock production is the mainstay. Around coastal China, and most of South and Southeast Asia, the major form of agricultural activity is subsistence crop production. Scattered throughout the region—especially in Japan, Southeast Asia, the western parts of Russia, and some fertile patches of the Middle East—are pockets of commercial crop production. Economically important activities throughout Central Asia and Russia include the production of wheat and other grains, cotton, and vegetables. Southeast Asia and the southern parts of China and India are major rice-growing areas, although grain production and consumption is more common in the northern regions of China and India. Rubber trees and oil palm plantations are significant in Malaysia and Indonesia. Tea plantations are significant in India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Animal Life The great variety of wildlife in Asia includes many species that are unique to the continent. Orangutans, the second tallest of the ape family after gorillas, are found on Borneo and Sumatra. Giant pandas make their home in southwestern China, and snow leopards roam the plateaus and mountains of Central Asia. A rare freshwater seal lives in Lake Baikal. China’s Yangtze River is home to a freshwater dolphin threatened by water pollution and increased numbers of motorized river vessels. The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard and among the oldest surviving lizards, inhabits a small island in eastern Indonesia. Asia’s wildlife generally can be classified by the particular vegetation zones they inhabit. Reindeer live in the southern tundra region of northern Siberia. Small fur-bearing animals, such as sables and foxes, are plentiful in the taiga forest of Russian Asia. The grasslands are home to antelope and many rodents, including marmots. In the mountainous areas of Central Asia live tiny musk deer. Tigers, one species of which inhabits northern Siberia, are found throughout the tropical rain forests of South and Southeast Asia. This area is also home to rhinoceroses, monkeys, and several subspecies of elephants. In the hilly regions of Southwest Asia live gazelles. A rare species of antelope known as the oryx is found on the fringes of the desert areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Other animals commonly found in Southwest Asia include wolves and hyenas. The remote mountainous region of Vietnam adjacent to the border with Laos has yielded some remarkable discoveries of animals previously unknown by scientists. A new species of cattle-like animal, the sao la (vu quang), was discovered in 1993, only the fourth discovery of this kind in the 20th century. Scientists have discovered other creatures since 1992, including two deer-like animals, the giant muntjac and the quang khem. Asia’s domesticated animals include water buffalo, which are harnessed to plows and carts. Cattle are also used for hauling, especially in India, which has the world’s largest cattle population. Most people in India do not eat beef because they belong to the Hindu religion, which considers cows sacred. Pigs are a major source of protein in China, although they are considered unclean in the Islamic countries, which include Pakistan, Afghanistan, and most countries of the Middle East. Sheep are kept across vast areas of semiarid Russian Asia, and reindeer are farmed in the north. People throughout the dry areas of the Middle East use camels. The bird life of Asia is varied and includes several rare species. In the mountains of northern India lives the lammergeier, a huge bird similar to the vulture, that can obtain a wingspread of almost 3 m (almost 10 ft). Peacocks and birds of paradise are found in the rain forests of Southeast Asia. The continent of Asia is also home to many of the world’s poisonous snakes. Cobras, which are especially common in India, and kraits and vipers, which are found throughout the continent, are the leading poisonous snakes. Numerous other reptiles, such as crocodiles, live in the rivers of Southeast Asia. Insects and Parasites The tropical climates of large portions of Asia are particularly favorable to the development of insects and of parasites with long, complex life cycles. Tropical walkingsticks can exceed 30 cm (12 in) in length. Malarial organisms and the mosquitoes that carry them are favored by the absence of cold winters and, in rainy tropical areas, by the abundance of precipitation. The deadliest of the malarial organisms, Plasmodium falciparum, can survive year round in tropical areas. Filariae, small parasitic roundworms, are common in India and much of Southeast Asia; the parasite can cause elephantiasis, a disease that produces grotesque swellings. Great swarms of locusts are a periodic menace to farming in various areas of the Asian continent, particularly in Southwest Asia. Mineral Resources Asia is rich in known mineral resources, and additional resources are suspected in some areas, such as Tibet, which are still unexplored geologically. Asia is particularly endowed with energy resources. Petroleum and natural gas are well distributed, but the greatest concentrations of mapped energy fuels are at the head of the Persian Gulf; in parts of Indonesia, especially Sumatra and Borneo; in northern and interior China; on the shores of the Caspian Sea; and in the West Siberian Plain. Large offshore reserves are believed to exist along the coasts of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and western India. Since Vietnam’s economy began opening to foreign investment in the late 1980s, offshore oil and gas reserves have been tapped for commercial production. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines each claim all or part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, an area thought to contain rich energy and mineral reserves. Coal exists in great abundance in Siberia, northeastern India, and especially in Shaanxi province in northern China, which contains 30 percent of China’s proven reserves. Despite enormous reserves, China is a coal importer because it does not have the capacity to transport sufficient coal from the northern to the southern parts of the country. With the exception of Turkey, which is a major chromium producer, metallic minerals are relatively scarce in Southwest Asia. China and Siberia are particularly well endowed with mineral resources. Malaysia is rich in tin and India in iron and manganese ores. Indonesia has bauxite, which is used in aluminum production. Gemstones such as diamonds are found in Siberia, and sapphires and rubies occur in South and Southeast Asia. Other important mineral resources include gold, silver, uranium, copper, lead, and zinc. The major manufacturing centers of Asia, such as Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, have few or no significant mineral resources. Agriculture Less than one-third of Asia’s land is in agricultural use. The basic unit for organizing production in the rural areas is either the farm or the village, depending on the way in which rural society is structured. In South, Southeast, and East Asia, agriculture is characterized by small farms in alluvial lowlands, too many people on too little land, production largely for subsistence, and a heavy dependence on cereals and other food staples. Farming with simple hand-held tools or plows pulled by draft animals is very common. Many farmers are tenants, not owning the land they work. Communal farming was once common in socialist countries. Most rural communes have disintegrated in China and Vietnam, however, and the rights to use the land have reverted to farm families. Rice, usually grown under wet conditions, is the staple food crop of South, Southeast, and East Asia. In South and Southeast Asia, controlled irrigation facilities are poorly developed, yields are often low, and double-cropping (two crops planted and harvested in one calendar year) is seldom practiced. Although high-yield varieties of wet rice have been introduced since the 1960s, this has not increased production as hoped. In India, irrigation schemes have helped stabilize annual yields and increase overall production, but the average rice yield per hectare in the mid-1990s was only about half that of Japan. Nevertheless, Asian countries produce about 90 percent of the world’s rice. China and India alone account for nearly 60 percent of the world total. In addition to subsistence and small-farm agriculture, South and Southeast Asia also have large-scale estate agriculture. These farms produce crops for export, such as rubber, palm oil, coconut products, tea, pineapples, and manila hemp. Estate production originated in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when European colonial powers controlled much of the region. Many estates remain under foreign ownership and control. In East Asia, agriculture is based on flooded-field cultivation to a latitude of about 35° north in China and about 40° north elsewhere. In contrast to Southeast Asia, yields are high, double-cropping is common, irrigation is highly controlled, and fertilizer is used extensively. These practices make Japan’s wet-rice agriculture very productive, despite the small size of Japanese farms. North of the Huai River in China’s Anhui province, rice gives way to wheat and other dry grains, especially sorghum and corn. Fish farming and swine and poultry raising are practiced throughout East Asia. Dairy and beef cattle, though, are commonly raised only in Japan and Korea. Farmers grow some grains in Asia’s dry interior regions, and the raising of cattle, sheep, and horses is important. Semiarid regions of Central and Southwest Asia have agriculture centered around oases. For the most part, however, productivity levels are low. Forestry and Fishing Although lumbering is an important industry in Southeast Asia, the pattern of commercial production is being altered, due in part to increased concern regarding deforestation. For example, in 1985 Indonesia—a significant source of tropical hardwoods—banned the export of unprocessed logs in an attempt to slow production and increase domestic timber processing industries. The bans were replaced by a high export tax in 1992. Thailand, once a major source of teak timbers, instituted a ban on commercial logging in 1989. Many companies then shifted their attention to the forests of neighboring Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, where some firms developed alliances with dissident groups to illegally exploit local timbers. Slash-and-burn agriculture is still practiced in parts of Southeast Asia, as well as in the more remote parts of humid South Asia and southern China. In the heavily populated areas of India and China, however, the original forest cover has long since been removed. Lumbering is a major industry in Japan, where large areas of planted conifers have replaced much of the original temperate forests in the south and deciduous hardwoods in the north. Siberian timber reserves are enormous but relatively untapped; the region’s inaccessibility and harsh climate prohibit logging, and the quality of the trees is generally insufficient for world markets. Marine fisheries are extremely important in Asia. Japan is the world’s leading fishing country, and China is not far behind. The fishing industry is also important in Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, and the Philippines. Pisciculture (raising fish in ponds) is also an important activity, especially in China. Although fishing in the less developed countries is largely for domestic consumption, emphasis has increasingly been placed on exports of dried, frozen, and canned fish. Mining Mining is also an important activity in most Asian countries, and it is a major export industry in several: manganese in India; tin in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia (which combined produce most of the world’s supply of this metal); and chromium ore in the Philippines. The most important mineral export, however, is petroleum, with Asian outputs accounting for about half the world’s total. Southwest Asia contains the world’s largest reserves of oil outside Russia, and most of the production is exported. Indonesia and, more recently, China and Malaysia are also exporters. In South Asia, modest petroleum and natural gas deposits are exploited in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and off the western coast of India. Coal mining is important in China—which contributes about 30 percent to the world’s total coal output—and in central and eastern Siberia, northeastern India, Iran, and Turkey. Other significant mineral products include iron, manganese, and tungsten in China; sulfur, zinc, and molybdenum in Japan; and gold in Uzbekistan and Siberia. China (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo), country in East Asia, the world’s third largest country by area (after Russia and Canada) and the largest by population. Officially the People’s Republic of China, it is bounded on the north by the Republic of Mongolia and Russia; on the northeast by Russia and North Korea; on the east by the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea; on the south by the South China Sea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), India, Bhutan, and Nepal; on the west by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan; and on the northwest by Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. China includes more than 3400 offshore islands. The total area of China is 9,571,300 sq km (3,695,500 sq mi), not including Hong Kong, Macau, and land under the control of the Republic of China on Taiwan, which mainland China considers a renegade province. In 1971 the United Nations (UN) admitted the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) and expelled the Republic of China (hereafter Taiwan) from its membership. Although most world governments do not recognize Taiwan, the island maintains a distinct government and economy. Information in this article, unless otherwise indicated, refers only to mainland China. Hong Kong, formerly a British territory, reverted to China in 1997. Unless otherwise specified, the statistics in this article do not include Hong Kong, which maintains a separate economy and has considerable political autonomy. The statistics also do not include Macau, located near Hong Kong on China’s southern coast, which is a Chinese territory administered by Portugal. Macau is scheduled to return to Chinese administration in 1999. The capital of China is Beijing; the country’s most populous urban center is Shanghai. More than one-fifth of the world’s total population lives within China’s borders. China gave birth to one of the world’s earliest civilizations and has a recorded history that dates from some 3500 years ago. Zhongguo, the Chinese name for the country, means "central land," a reference to the Chinese belief that their country was the geographical center of the earth and the only true civilization. By the 19th century China had become a politically and economically weak nation, dominated by foreign powers. China underwent many changes in the first half of the 20th century. The imperial government was overthrown and in the chaotic years that followed, two groups—the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communists—struggled for control of the country. In 1949 the Communists won control of China. The government of the Republic of China, led by the KMT, fled to Taiwan. The accession of the Communist government in 1949 stands as one of the most important events in Chinese history; in a remarkably short period of time radical changes were effected in both the Chinese economy and society. Since the 1970s China has cast off its self-imposed isolation from the international community and has sought to modernize its economic structure. LAND AND RESOURCES China encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and a corresponding variety of natural resources. Generally speaking, China’s higher elevations are found in the west, where some of the world’s highest mountain ranges are located. Three of these, the Tien Shan, Kunlun Mountains, and Qin Ling, date from an episode of Paleozoic mountain building (orogeny) that began late in the Carboniferous period and ended in the Permian period, when all of the world’s landmasses had drawn together to form a single supercontinent, Pangaea (see Geology: The Geologic Time Scale). A fourth, the Himalayas, is of more recent origin. It formed when sediments that had been deposited in a Mesozoic sea, the Tethys, were squeezed together and lifted up by the collision of India with Eurasia, an event that began during the Oligocene epoch of the Tertiary period, some 40 million years ago. In the present or Recent epoch of the Quaternary period, tectonic activity has taken the form of devastating earthquakes that tend to occur in a broad arc extending from the western edge of the Sichuan Basin northeast toward Bo Hai, the gulf on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea. The country’s numerous mountain ranges enclose a series of plateaus and basins and furnish a notable wealth of water and mineral resources. A broad range of climatic types, from the subarctic to tropical, and including large areas of alpine and desert habitats, supports a magnificent array of plant and animal life. Mountains occupy about 43 percent of China’s land surface; mountainous plateaus account for another 26 percent; and basins, predominantly hilly in terrain and located mainly in arid regions, cover approximately 19 percent of the area. Only 12 percent of the total area may be classed as plains. Rivers and Lakes All the major river systems of China, including the three longest—the Yangtze, Huang He, and Xi Jiang—flow in a generally western to eastern direction to the Pacific Ocean. In all, about 50 percent of the total land area drains to the Pacific. Only about 10 percent of the country’s area drains to the Indian and Arctic oceans. The remaining 40 percent has no outlet to the sea and drains to the arid basins of the west and north, where the streams evaporate or percolate to form deep underground water reserves; principal among these streams is the Tarim. The northernmost major stream of China is the Amur River (Heilong Jiang), which forms most of the northeastern boundary with Russia. The Songhua and Liao rivers and their tributaries drain most of the Manchurian Plain and its surrounding highlands. The major river of North China is the Huang He. It is traditionally referred to as "China’s Sorrow" because, throughout Chinese history, it has periodically devastated large areas by flooding. The river is diked in its lower course, and its bed is elevated above the surrounding plain as a result of the accumulation of silt. The river rises in the marginal highlands of the Tibetan Plateau and follows a circuitous course to the Bo Hai (an arm of the Yellow Sea), draining an area more than twice the size of France. The Yangtze River of central China has a discharge more than ten times that of the Huang He. The longest river in Asia, it has a vast drainage basin. The Yangtze rises near the source of the Huang He and enters the sea at Shanghai. It is a major transportation artery. Serving the major port of Guangzhou (Canton) are the estuarine lower reaches of the Xi Jiang, the most important river system of southern China. The river, which has numerous tributaries and distributaries, has a discharge three times as great as that of the Huang He. Most of the important lakes (hu) of China lie along the middle and lower Yangtze Valley. The two largest in the middle portion are Dongting Hu and Poyang Hu. In summer these lakes increase their areas by two to three times and serve as reservoirs for excess water. Tai Hu is the largest of several lakes in the Yangtze delta, and Hongze Hu and Gaoyou Hu lie just to the north of the delta. Saline lakes, many of considerable size, abound in the Tibetan Plateau. The largest is the marshy Qinghai Hu in the less elevated northeast, but several others nearly as large occur on the high plateau. In the arid northwest and in the Mongolian Steppe are a number of large lakes, most of which are also saline; principal among these are Lop Nur and Bosten Hu east of the Tarim Pendi. Ulansuhai Nur, which is fed by the Huang He, is in Inner Mongolia; Hulun Nur lies west of the Da Hinggan Ling in Manchuria. More than 2000 reservoirs have been constructed throughout the nation, primarily for irrigation and flood control. Most are small, but the largest, the Longmen reservoir on the Huang He, has a capacity of 35.4 billion cu m (1250 billion cu ft). Plant Life As a result of the wide range of climates and topography, China is rich in plant species. Most of the original vegetation has been removed, however, during centuries of settlement and intensive cultivation. Natural forests are generally preserved only in the more remote mountain areas. Dense tropical rain forests are found in the region south of the Xi Jiang valley. These forests consist of broadleaf evergreens, some more than 50 m (more than 160 ft) tall, intermixed with palms. An extensive region of subtropical vegetation extends north to the Yangtze Valley and west to the Tibetan Plateau. This zone is especially rich in species, including evergreen oak, ginkgo, bamboo, pine, azalea, and camellia. Also found are forests with laurel and magnolia and a dense undergrowth of smaller shrubs and bamboo thickets. Conifers and mountain grasses dominate at higher elevations. To the north of the Yangtze Valley a broadleaf deciduous forest, similar to that of the eastern United States, originally prevailed. The principal species remaining here are various oaks, ash, elm, and maple; linden and birch flourish to the north in Manchuria. China’s most important timber reserves are found in the mountains of northern Manchuria, where extensive tracts of a larch-dominated coniferous forest remain. The Manchurian Plain, now under cultivation, was once dominated by a forest steppe—grasses interspersed with trees. Prairie, or steppe, lands, covered with drought-resistant grasses, are found in the eastern portion of the Mongolian Steppe. The vegetation of this region has, however, been depleted by overgrazing and soil erosion. The more arid regions of the northwest are characterized by clumps of herbaceous plants and grasses separated by extensive barren areas; salt-tolerant species dominate here. A somewhat lusher tundra vegetation, consisting of grasses and flowers, is found on most of the high Tibetan Plateau. In more favored locations throughout the arid regions, larger shrubs and even trees may occur, and in many mountain areas, spruce and fir forests are found. Animal Life The diverse habitats in China support a wide range of fauna, from arctic species in Manchuria to many tropical species in southern China. Some species, extinct elsewhere, survive in China. Among these are the great paddlefish of the Yangtze River, species of alligator and salamander, the giant panda (found only in southwestern China), and the Chinese water deer (found only in China and Korea). Several types of primates, including gibbon and macaque as well as several other species of apes and monkeys, are abundant in the tropical south. Large carnivores, such as bear, tiger, and leopard, are few in number and confined to remote areas. Members of the leopard family, for instance, are distributed at the peripheries of the heavily populated areas; leopards are found in northern Manchuria, the snow leopard in Tibet, and the clouded leopard in the extreme south. Smaller carnivores, such as fox, wolf, raccoon dog, and civet cat, are widespread and locally numerous. Antelope, gazelle, chamois, wild horses, deer, and other hoofed animals inhabit the uplands and basins of the west, and the Alaskan moose is found in northern Manchuria. Birdlife is diverse and includes pheasant, peacock, parrot, heron, and crane. Along with the common domesticated animals are found the water buffalo, an important draft animal in the south; the camel, which is utilized in the arid north and west; and the yak, a semidomesticated oxlike animal, which is used in the highlands of Tibet. Marine life is abundant, especially along the southeastern coast, and includes flounder, cod, yellow croaker, pomfret, tuna, cuttlefish, sea crabs, prawns, and dolphins. The rivers of China contain a variety of carp species, as well as salmon, trout, sturgeon, catfish, and the Chinese river dolphin. Much of China’s inland water is devoted to fish farming. Mineral Resources Because of its geologic diversity, China possesses an extremely wide array of mineral resources. The only minerals in which the country appears to be deficient are vanadium, chrome, and cobalt. Mineral deposits are distributed widely throughout the country; the principal mining regions are southern Manchuria, especially the Liaodong Peninsula, and the uplands of South China. Only in the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding high mountains have significant mineral deposits not yet been discovered. China is particularly well endowed with energy resources. Coal reserves of up to 11 trillion metric tons are claimed, most of it in Manchuria and adjacent areas of North China. Petroleum reserves are estimated at more than 147 billion barrels, the bulk of which has been discovered offshore. China now claims to be second only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves; other deposits are located in Manchuria and in the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai and in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Oil-shale deposits are located primarily in Liaoning and Guangdong. Among metallic mineral ores, iron-ore reserves are estimated to be more than 40 billion metric tons. The largest deposits, mainly in southern Manchuria, northern Hebei, and Inner Mongolia (Nei Mongol), are mostly of low quality. Some high-grade deposits of hematite occur in Liaoning and Hubei in the Yangtze Valley. Extensive deposits have also been discovered on Hainan. Reserves of aluminum ores, occurring mainly in Liaoning and Shandong, are estimated at more than 1 billion metric tons. Tin reserves, found primarily in Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, are perhaps as much as 2 million metric tons; China’s production of refined tin amounts to about one-quarter of the world’s output. China holds the world’s largest reserves of both antimony and tungsten. Tungsten is found mainly in the highlands north of the Xi Jiang, and the largest antimony deposits are in Hunan. China also holds abundant reserves of magnesite, molybdenum, mercury, and manganese. Reserves of lead, zinc, and copper, however, are modest. Uranium has been discovered in several localities, principally in Manchuria and the northwest. Other resources occurring in considerable quantities are phosphate rock, salt, talc, mica, quartz, silica, and fluorspar. Russia or Russian Federation (Russian Rossiyskaya Federatsiya), independent republic in Eastern Europe and northern Asia, the world’s largest country by area. Russia was once the largest and the most prominent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). In 1991 the USSR broke apart and Russia became an independent country. The USSR had a totalitarian political system in which Communist Party leaders held political and economic power. The state owned all companies and land, and the government controlled production of goods and other aspects of the economy, a system known as a command, or planned, economy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia began transforming itself into a more democratic society with an economy based on market mechanisms and principles. Russia has made many successful changes: There have been free elections at all levels of government; private ownership of property has been legalized; and large segments of the economy are now privately owned. The transformation is far from complete, however. In the economic sphere, privatized assets have not been allocated fairly among the population and privatization of land is still in its infancy. Russia must also deal with the large-scale environmental destruction and other problems inherited from the Soviet Union. In the political arena, a stable society based on citizen involvement in local, regional, and national affairs has yet to develop. The transformation has affected the people of Russia in a variety of ways. Under the Soviet system, Russians became accustomed to having the government define many aspects of their lives. For many, the collapse of the USSR and the Communist ideal created an ideological void, and Russians have increasingly turned to traditional and nontraditional faiths to fill that void. The post-Soviet era has also seen an overall decline in Russia’s population, despite the influx of immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union. Russia has the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate of the industrialized countries. In addition, the incidence of several infectious diseases has increased markedly in recent years. The social welfare system, already constrained by inadequate funding, is greatly challenged to combat these growing problems. In general, Russia’s climate is similar to that of Canada. Much of the land lies north of the 50th parallel of latitude and far from the moderating influences of oceans. Like Canada, though colder and with greater temperature extremes in many places, most of Russia has a harsh continental climate. Although climate, and to some degree soils, limit the country’s agricultural wealth, mineral wealth is considerable: Russia’s mineral resources are unmatched by any other country. Russia’s borders measure more than 20,100 km (12,500 mi). On the north Russia is bounded by extensions of the Arctic Ocean: the Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas. On the east the country is bounded by the Pacific Ocean and several of its extensions: the Bering Strait (which separates Russia from Alaska), the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea). In the extreme southeast Russia abuts the northeastern tip of North Korea. On the south it is bounded by China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea. On the southwest it is bounded by Ukraine, and on the west by Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, the Gulf of Finland, and Finland. In the extreme northwest, Russia is bounded by Norway. Lithuania and Poland border Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea. Administratively, Russia includes 21 republics; 6 territories known as krays; 10 national areas called okrugs; 49 districts, or oblasts; 1 autonomous region; and 2 cities with federal status. The capital and largest city is Moscow. Kurt E. Engelmann contributed the introduction to this article. LAND AND RESOURCES In both total area and geographic extent Russia is the largest country in the world. With an area of 17,075,200 sq km (6,592,770 sq mi), Russia constitutes more than one-ninth of the world’s land area and nearly twice the area of the United States or China. From north to south Russia extends more than 4000 km (2400 mi) from Arctic islands in the Barents Sea to the southern border along the Caucasus Mountains. From the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to Big Diomede Island (Ratmanov Island) in the Bering Strait, Russia’s maximum east-west extent is almost 10,000 km (6200 mi), a distance encompassing 11 time zones and spanning nearly half the circumference of the earth. Russia also stretches across parts of two continents, Europe and Asia, with the Ural Mountains and Ural River marking the boundary between them. Russia’s principal islands lie in the Arctic and Pacific oceans and their extensions. Farthest north, in the Arctic Ocean, is Franz Josef Land, an archipelago consisting of about 100 small islands. The other main Arctic islands, from west to east, include the two islands of Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, the group of islands called Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Wrangel Island. Between these major islands lie numerous small islands and island chains. In the Pacific Ocean are the Kuril Islands, which extend southwest in an arc from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the main islands of Japan. Russia occupies and administers all the Kuril Islands, although ownership of the four southernmost islands is disputed with Japan. The Pacific also includes the large island of Sakhalin, which separates the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan. Russia contains complex geologic structures and surface formations. Very simply, however, the landmass consists of vast plains in the west and north, and a discontinuous belt of mountains and plateaus on the south and east. The upland and mountainous regions include most of Siberia and extend to the Pacific. Rivers and Lakes Russia’s longest rivers are all located in Siberia. The Ob’ and Irtysh rivers form Russia’s largest river system, which is also the largest in Asia and the fourth largest in the world. Together, these rivers flow 5410 km (3362 mi) north from western China through western Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. Several tributaries of the Ob’, including the Irtysh, flow through neighboring Kazakhstan. The Amur and its headwaters, the Onon and the Shilka, form Russia’s second longest system, with a total length of 4416 km (2744 mi). The Onon flows northeast from Mongolia into southern Siberia, where it joins the Ingoda to form the Shilka, which continues in a northeasterly direction. At the border with China the Shilka joins the Argun to form the Amur, which continues along the border for about 1610 km (about 1000 mi) before heading north to the Pacific Ocean. Among individual rivers, the Lena River is longest; it flows 4400 km (2700 mi) north through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean from its source near Lake Baikal. The next longest individual rivers are the Irtysh and the Ob’. The Volga, located in European Russia, is the country’s fourth longest river and the longest river in Europe. Together with its two main tributaries, the Kama and Oka rivers, it drains a large eastern portion of the Great European Plain southeast to the Caspian Sea. The fifth longest river, the Yenisey, flows north from Mongolia through central Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. Its main tributary is the Angara River, which flows from Lake Baikal, Russia’s largest freshwater lake. The Yenisey River carries more water than any other stream system in the country. In size of flow, it is followed by the Lena, Ob’ Amur, and Volga rivers. All the other rivers have much smaller flows. Many other streams and rivers are significant because they serve as transportation routes or power sources in densely populated areas, or because their waters are used for irrigation. Notable among these is the Don River, which lies in the southern portion of European Russia and drains south to the Sea of Azov. On the northern portion of the Great European Plain, the Daugava (Western Dvina) and Narva rivers flow north and west to the Baltic Sea; the Pechora, Northern Dvina, Mezen’ and Onega rivers flow to the Barents Sea and the White Sea. The Terek and Kuban’ rivers originate in the Greater Caucasus and are important for irrigation purposes. The Terek descends steeply from the mountains before flowing east to the Caspian Sea, while the Kuban’ flows west to the Sea of Azov. During the Soviet period the government was active in building large dams for electrical power, irrigation, flood control, and navigational purposes. On some rivers a series of huge reservoirs have transformed the drainage basins. The most extensive construction has taken place on the Volga-Kama system and the Don River on the Great European Plain, and on the upper portions of the Yenisey-Angara system and Ob’-Irtysh system in Siberia. A series of dams on the Volga has significantly slowed the river and decreased the volume of water it can carry. The decline in the flow of the Kuban’ and Don rivers has been even greater. As a result, the rivers retain even more of the pollutants that are discharged into their waters, and the spawning grounds of sturgeon and other fish have been greatly reduced. Many of the dams do not have properly functioning fish ladders, and as a result many fish do not make it past the dams to their spawning grounds. Inadequate or nonexistent wastewater treatment also contributes to the degradation of rivers and lakes. Many natural lakes occur in Russia, particularly in the glaciated northwestern portion of the country. The Caspian Sea on Russia’s southern border is the world’s largest lake in terms of surface area. Although called a sea, it is actually a saline lake that occupies a land depression. Rivers drain into the Caspian, but the deep basin does not fill with water and overflow to the sea. Water escapes only through evaporation; over a period of time the salts that are left behind accumulate in the water, making the lake saline. Lake Baikal in southern Siberia has the largest surface area of any lake entirely within Russia, and it is the largest in the world in terms of volume; it is estimated to contain one-fifth of the earth’s fresh surface water. With a maximum depth of 1637 m (5371 ft), Lake Baikal is also the world’s deepest freshwater lake. Russia’s next two largest lakes in terms of surface area are Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. Located in northwestern Russia, these freshwater lakes are the two largest lakes in Europe. Soils and Vegetation The broad zones of natural vegetation and soils correspond closely to the country’s climate zones. Summers are too cool for trees in the far north, where tundra vegetation of mosses, lichens, and low shrubs grows instead. Permafrost, or permanently frozen subsoil, is found throughout this region. The ground is frozen to great depths, and even in summer only a shallow surface layer thaws. There is a polar desert zone on several Arctic islands to the north of the tundra zone; the vegetation in this zone consists of a limited number of moss and lichen groupings scattered in patches. Russia’s forests, located mostly in Siberia, cover more than two-fifths of the country’s total territory, and account for nearly one-fourth of the world’s total forested area. The forest zone has two distinct areas: a large, mainly coniferous forest, or taiga, lies in the north, and a much smaller area of mixed forest lies in the south. The taiga occupies two-fifths of European Russia and extends across the Urals to cover much of Siberia. Much of the taiga also has permafrost. This vast zone is made up primarily of coniferous trees, but birch, poplar, aspen, willow, and other deciduous trees add to the diversity of the forest in some places. The taiga contains the world’s largest coniferous forest, representing about one-third of the earth’s softwood timber. In the extreme northwestern part of the European region, the taiga is dominated by a variety of pines, although significant numbers of fir, birch, and other trees are also present. Eastward to the western slopes of the Urals, pines are still common, but firs predominate. Some regions, however, have stands of trees that are made up almost exclusively of birch. The taiga of the West Siberian Plain consists primarily of various species of pine, but birch is dominant along the southern fringes of the forest. Larch, a deciduous conifer, becomes dominant throughout much of the Central Siberian Upland and the mountains of eastern Siberia. Throughout the taiga zone, trees are generally small and widely spaced. Large areas are devoid of trees, particularly where the soil is poorly drained. In these areas marsh grasses and bushes form the vegetative cover. The taiga contains infertile, acidic soils known as ultisols, or podzols. A mixed forest, containing both coniferous and broad-leaved deciduous trees, occupies the central portion of the Great European Plain between Saint Petersburg and the Ukrainian border. The mixed forest is dominated by coniferous evergreen trees in the north and broad-leaved trees in the south. The principal broad-leaved species are oak, beech, maple, and hornbeam. A similar forest of somewhat different species prevails along the middle Amur River valley and south along the Ussuri River valley. Gray-brown soils are found in the mixed forest zone. Less infertile than the soils of the taiga, these soils can be kept quite productive with proper farming methods and heavy fertilization. To the south, the mixed forest transitions through a narrow zone of forest-steppe and then passes into the zone of a true steppe. The natural vegetation of a forest-steppe is grassland with scattered groves of trees. However, much of Russia’s forest-steppe has been cleared of its original cover and is now under cultivation. The forest-steppe zone averages about 150 km (about 95 mi) wide and stretches east across the middle Volga Valley and southern Ural Mountains into the southern portions of the West Siberian Plain. Isolated areas of this zone can be found in the southern basins between the mountains of eastern Siberia. The natural vegetation of a true steppe consists of a mixture of grasses with only a few stunted trees in sheltered valleys. Like the forest-steppe, Russia’s steppe is now mostly under cultivation. It includes the area northwest of the Greater Caucasus Mountains and a strip of land that extends east across the southern Volga Valley, the southern Urals, and parts of western Siberia. Both the forest-steppe and the steppe have fertile soils and together form a region known as the chernozem, or black-earth, belt; this is the agricultural heartland of Russia. Soils in the chernozem belt are high in humus content and have a balance of minerals that is suitable for most crops. The forest-steppe has a better moisture supply than the steppe during the growing season, and consequently is the best agricultural area of Russia. The chestnut and brown soils of the southern steppe are not quite as rich in humus as the chernozems to the north, but are very high in mineral content and can be productive with adequate moisture. Animal Life Animal life is abundant and varied throughout many parts of Russia. The tundra, which spans the Arctic and northern Pacific coasts and encompasses Russia’s offshore Arctic islands, is home to polar bears, seals, walruses, polar foxes, lemmings, reindeer, and white hare. Bird life includes white partridges, polar owls, gulls, and loons. Geese, swans, and ducks migrate into the region during summer, when mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects also emerge. South of the tundra, the taiga is a habitat for elks, brown bears, lynx, sables, and a variety of forest birds, including owls and nightingales. Swamps in this zone have been stocked with muskrats from Canada. Muskrats and squirrels are now the main source of pelts trapped in the wild. The broad-leaved forests of the Central European and West Siberian plains contain boars, deer, wolves, foxes, and minks. There are also a variety of birds, snakes, lizards, and tortoises. The forests of far southeastern Russia are known for their Siberian tigers—the largest cat in the world—as well as leopards, bears, and deer. The steppe primarily contains rodents such as marmots and hamsters, but there are also a number of hoofed animals, including steppe antelope. The main beasts of prey are steppe polecats and Tatar foxes. Bird life includes cranes and eagles. The Caucasus region is particularly abundant in wildlife, including mountain goats, chamois, Caucasian deer, wild boars, porcupines, leopards, hyenas, jackals, squirrels, and bears. There is also a variety of game fowl, including black grouses, turkey hens, and stone partridges. Reptiles and amphibians are also numerous in the Caucasus region. Many animal species are threatened or endangered, including snow leopards and Siberian tigers. A great number of threatened or endangered species are found in far eastern Russia, including Chinese egrets, red-crowned cranes, and Nordmann’s greenshanks. Natural Resources Russia contains the greatest reserves of mineral resources of any country in the world. Although minerals are abundant, many are in remote areas with extreme climate conditions, which makes them expensive to extract. Russia is especially rich in mineral fuels. The country may hold as much as one-half of the world’s potential coal reserves and may hold larger reserves of petroleum than any other nation. Coal deposits are scattered widely throughout the country; by far the largest fields lie in central and eastern Siberia, but the most developed fields are in western Siberia, the northeastern European region, the area around Moscow, and the Urals. The major petroleum deposits are in western Siberia and the Volga-Urals region. Smaller deposits are found in many other parts of the country. The principal natural gas deposits, of which Russia holds about 40 percent of the world’s reserves, are along Siberia’s Arctic coast, in the northern Caucasus region, and in the northwestern Russia. The primary iron-ore deposits are found south of Moscow, near the Ukrainian border in an area known as the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly; in this area, vast deposits of iron ore have caused a deviation in the earth’s magnetic field. Smaller iron ore deposits are scattered throughout the country. The Urals contain minor deposits of manganese. Other important iron alloys—such as nickel, tungsten, cobalt, and molybdenum—occur in adequate or even abundant quantities. Russia is also well endowed with most of the nonferrous metals. The aluminum ores Russia does have are found primarily in the Urals, northwestern European Russia, and south central Siberia. Copper, on the other hand, is abundant: Reserves are found in the Urals, the Noril’sk area near the mouth of the Yenisey River in eastern Siberia, and the Kola Peninsula. A large deposit east of Lake Baikal became commercially exploitable when the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM) railroad was completed in 1989. Lead and zinc ores are abundant in the northern Caucasus, far eastern Russia, and the western edge of the Kuznetsk Basin in southern Siberia. These ores are commonly found with copper, gold, silver, and a variety of rare metals. Russia has some of the world’s largest gold reserves, primarily in Siberia and the Urals. There are mercury deposits in the far northeastern part of Russia. Large asbestos deposits exist in the central and southern Urals and in south central Siberia. Raw materials for the manufacture of chemicals are also abundant. These include potassium and magnesium salt deposits in the Kama River district of the western Urals. Some of the world’s largest deposits of apatite (a mineral from which phosphate is derived) are in the central Kola Peninsula; other types of phosphate ores are found in other parts of the country. Common rock salt is found in the southwestern Urals and southwest of Lake Baikal. Surface deposits of salt are derived from salt lakes along the lower Volga Valley. Sulfur is found in the Urals and the middle Volga Valley. High-grade limestone, used for the production of cement, is found in many parts of the country, but particularly near Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, and in the Zhiguli Hills area of the middle Volga Valley. Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey (Turkish Türkiye Cumhuriyeti), southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, bordered on the northwest by Bulgaria and Greece; on the north by the Black Sea; on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia; on the east by Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxçývan; on the south by Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west by the Aegean Sea. The total area of Turkey is 779,452 sq km (300,948 sq mi). The capital is Ankara; Ýstanbul is the largest city. The modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk) from a portion of the Ottoman Empire, following the empire’s collapse as a result of World War I (1914-1918). Turkey became a secular state in 1928, and a multiparty political system was established in 1950. Apart from a brief period of government by a military junta in 1960 and 1961, Turkey remained under civilian rule until 1980, when, in a period of political instability, inflation, and acts of terrorism, the military again took control. Civilian rule was restored to Turkey at the end of 1983. LAND AND RESOURCES The main area of Turkey, known as Anatolia, is in Asia between the Mediterranean and Black seas. Turkish Thrace in Europe makes up about 3 percent of the country’s area. Turkey has relatively rich agricultural resources and important deposits of lignite, black coal, iron ore, and chromium; some petroleum is found in the southeast. With several active seismic zones within its boundaries, Turkey is subject to frequent earthquakes. Rivers and Lakes Almost all the rivers of Turkey contain rapids and are thus unsuitable for navigation. A number of rivers do not flow during the dry summer. Some rivers are, however, important sources of hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. The Kýzýlýrmak (1150 km/715 mi long), which empties into the Black Sea, is the longest river flowing entirely within national boundaries. The Büyükmenderes (ancient Meander) drains western Anatolia into the Aegean Sea; its many loops and bends have given rise to the term meander in English. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow from eastern Turkey to empty ultimately into the Persian Gulf. Van Gölü (Lake Van) is Turkey’s largest lake; its waters are saline, as are those of another large body of water, Lake Tuz. Freshwater lakes include Beyºehir, Eðridir, and Burdur—all in the southwest. Climate and Vegetation The Mediterranean and Aegean shores of Turkey experience long, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. Ýstanbul, located on the Bosporus, has an average temperature range in January of 3° to 8° C (37° to 46° F). In July the average range is 18° to 28° C (65° to 82° F). Precipitation averages about 820 mm (about 32 in) annually, and is heaviest between October and March. Olives, citrus fruit, figs, grapes, cotton, and early spring vegetables are raised. Scattered forests alternate with low herbaceous growth. The central Anatolian Plateau has a continental climate with hot summers and colder winters than those along the shore. Ankara, located here, has an average temperature range of -4° to 4° C (24° to 39° F) in January and 15° to 30° C (59° to 86° F) in July. The average annual precipitation is about 350 mm (about 14 in). Along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, more than one-third of the yearly precipitation, which is about 650 mm (about 26 in) at Ýzmir, falls in December and January. The plateau receives only about half as much precipitation, but it is more evenly distributed over the course of the year. Grasslands and grain fields are abundant on the plateau, with sparse forests restricted to higher slopes. The eastern highlands experience even longer and colder winters. Pastoralism and grazing prevail. Some sparse forests are found, and alpine vegetation is common at higher elevations. Humid deciduous forests as well as a thick brush cover are found along the Black Sea, and the climate is mild and rainy. Southeastern Anatolia records the hottest summer temperatures in Turkey (averaging more than 30° C/86° F in July and August); grain farming is dominant here, with grazing in its drier portions. Higher elevations have forests similar to those in the eastern highlands. Animal Life Only wild boar, which are seldom hunted or killed by Muslims (the great majority of the population), remain abundant in the forests. Wolf, fox, wildcat, hyena, jackal, deer, bear, marten, and mountain goat inhabit more remote areas. The camel, water buffalo, and Angora goat have been domesticated. In addition to numerous local species of birds, including the wild goose, partridge, and quail, migrations of birds of prey—lesser spotted eagles, buzzards, hawks, kestrels, and falcons—pass down the Bosporus. Trout are abundant in the mountain streams, and bonito, mackerel, and bluefish are plentiful in the Turkish Straits. Anchovies are caught in the Black Sea. Mineral Resources In addition to good supplies of coal and iron ore, Turkey has a number of small but important mineral deposits, such as chromium near Guleman and Fethiye, high-grade magnetite at Divriði, and lead and zinc in scattered areas. Boron, copper, and silver are also found, and petroleum occurs in the southeast. Central America, region of the western hemisphere, made up of a long, tapering isthmus that forms a bridge between North and South America. Central America, which is defined by geographers as part of North America, has an area of about 523,000 sq km (about 201,930 sq mi) and includes the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The region has a population of approximately 31.3 million (1993 estimate). THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT In strictly geological terms, Central America begins at the narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in southern Mexico. That narrow section divides the volcanic rocks to the northwest from the folded and faulted structures of Central America. The southernmost geological limit of Central America is the Atrato River valley, in Colombia, South America, just east of the Panama border. Rivers and Lakes The longest rivers of Central America flow to the Caribbean, and many small streams drain into the Pacific. Longer rivers include the Motagua of Guatemala; the Ulúa, Aguán, and Patuca of Honduras; the Coco, which forms part of the Honduras-Nicaragua boundary; the Río Grande and Escondido of Nicaragua; and the San Juan, which forms a section of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Some of the rivers flowing to the Caribbean are navigable by small craft, but the streams flowing to the Pacific are too steep or too shallow for navigation. Central America has three large lakes—Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua in Nicaragua and Gatún Lake in Panama. Part of the Panama Canal, a great commercial waterway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, is in Gatún Lake. Vegetation Central America is essentially a land bridge uniting two previously isolated ecosystems. As a result, a mixture of both North and South American plant and animal species are found here. The lowland rain forest of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts resembles the selva, or tropical rain forest, of South America. This is especially true below an elevation of about 1000 m (about 3280 ft), with large numbers of palms, tree ferns, lianas, and epiphytes (air plants) reflecting the high rainfall and humidity of the region. Vegetation at altitudes of about 1000 to 1600 m (about 3280 to 5250 ft) shows ties with North America. The pine and oak forests of these highlands are like those of the Mexican highlands. High-altitude regions of Guatemala contain grasses like those of Mexico and the United States, and at about 3100 m (about 10,170 ft) in Costa Rica are tall grasses similar to those growing above the tree line in the Andes Mountains of South America. Animal Life Most of the animal life of Central America is similar to that of South America, but some animals have ties with North America. The marley and opossum have links with South America, as do the jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, and margay, which are members of the cat family. In contrast, the puma, gray fox, and coyote are of North American origin. The armadillo, anteater, and sloth have ties to the south, deer to the north. The large manatee, an aquatic plant eater, survives in the isolated lagoons of eastern Central America. Other food sources are the large green turtle and the iguana. Central America provides a habitat for numerous snakes such as the boa constrictor and the bushmaster. Parrots, the quetzal, toucans, and fish are common; notable are the landlocked sharks of Lake Nicaragua. Mineral Resources The minerals of Central America were an early lure for European settlers, especially the gold and silver found in Honduras and the highlands of Nicaragua. In addition, Honduras has significant deposits of lead, zinc, copper, and low-grade iron ore, and Nicaragua has large deposits of natural gas offshore in the Pacific. Large nickel deposits are in the vicinity of Izabal in Guatemala, and the country also has substantial reserves of petroleum, including those near Chinajá. Panama has considerable deposits of copper at Cerro Colorado. Agriculture Farming is by far the leading economic activity in Central America. The principal cash crops, such as coffee, bananas, sugarcane, and cotton are typically produced on large landholdings, and a substantial proportion are exported, mainly to the United States and Europe. Food for local consumption is raised mainly on small farms; most of it is consumed by the farm families, and relatively little is marketed. The chief subsistence food commodities are corn, beans, bananas, manioc, rice, and poultry. Cattle are raised on big ranches located mainly in the drier regions of western Central America. Modern farming methods are used on the large landholdings, but the small farmers generally use relatively simple techniques that hold down productivity. Forestry and Fishing About 40 percent of Central America is forested. The early years of European activity in Belize, for example, revolved around the extraction of dyewoods, and later mahogany, chicle, and pine timber were produced. British timber companies also cut mahogany and cedar along the greater Caribbean coast. Today, forestry is a relatively unimportant aspect of the Central American economy. Pine is the main wood harvested, and some hardwoods, such as cedar, mahogany, and rosewood, also are cut. Fishing too is a comparatively minor economic activity in Central America. Shrimp and spiny lobster, caught off the coasts of Belize, El Salvador, and Panama, are mostly exported to the United States. Since the mid-1960s Panama has developed a fish-meal and fish-oil industry. Central America has a low rate of per capita fish consumption. Mining The mineral output of Central America is small. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua produce limited quantities of silver, gold, lead, copper, and antimony. In the early 1980s Guatemala began to export small quantities of crude oil. Europe, conventionally one of the seven continents of the world. Although referred to as a continent, Europe is actually just the western fifth of the Eurasian landmass, which is made up primarily of Asia. Modern geographers generally describe the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, part of the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains as forming the main boundary between Europe and Asia. The name Europe is perhaps derived from that of Europa, the daughter of Phoenix in Greek mythology, or possibly from Ereb, a Phoenician word for "sunset." The second smallest continent (Australia is the smallest), Europe has an area of about 10,525,000 sq km (about 4,065,000 sq mi), but it has the second largest population of all the continents, about 728 million (1994 estimate). The northernmost point of the European mainland is Cape Nordkinn, in Norway; the southernmost, Punta de Tarifa, in southern Spain near Gibraltar. From west to east the mainland ranges from Cabo da Roca, in Portugal, to the northeastern slopes of the Urals, in Russia. Europe has long been a center of great cultural and economic achievement. The ancient Greeks and Romans produced major civilizations, famous for their contributions to philosophy, literature, fine art, and government. The Renaissance, which began in the 14th century, was a period of great accomplishment for European artists and architects, and the age of exploration, beginning in the 15th century, included voyages to the far corners of the world by European navigators. European nations, particularly Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain, built large colonial empires, with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. In the 18th century modern forms of industry began to be developed. In the 20th century much of Europe was ravaged by the two world wars. After World War II ended in 1945, the continent was divided into two major political and economic blocs—Communist nations in Eastern Europe and non-Communist countries in Western Europe. Between 1989 and 1991, however, the Eastern bloc broke up. Communist regimes surrendered power in most Eastern European countries. East and West Germany were unified. The Soviet Communist party collapsed, multilateral military and economic ties between Eastern Europe and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were severed, and the USSR itself ceased to exist. Vegetation Although much of Europe, particularly the west, was originally covered by forest, the vegetation has been transformed by human habitation and the clearing of land. Only in the most northerly mountains and in parts of north central European Russia has the forest cover been relatively unaffected by human activity. On the other hand, a considerable amount of Europe is covered by woodland that has been planted or has reoccupied cleared lands. The largest vegetation zone in Europe, cutting across the middle portion of the continent from the Atlantic to the Urals, is a belt of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees—oak, maple, and elm intermingled with pine and fir. The Arctic coastal regions of northern Europe and the upper slopes of its highest mountains are characterized by tundra vegetation, which consists mostly of lichens, mosses, shrubs, and wild flowers. The milder, but nevertheless cool temperatures of inland northern Europe create an environment favorable to a continuous cover of coniferous trees, especially spruce and pine, although birch and aspen also occur. Much of the Great European Plain is covered with prairies, areas of relatively tall grasses, and Ukraine is characterized by steppe, a flat and comparatively dry region with short grasses. Lands bordering the Mediterranean are noted for their fruit, especially olives, citrus fruit, figs, apricots, and grapes. Animal Life At one time Europe was home to large numbers of a wide variety of animals, such as deer, elk, bison, boar, wolf, and bear. Because humans have occupied or developed so much of Europe, however, many species of animals have either become extinct or have been greatly reduced in number. Today, deer, elk, wolf, and bear can be found in the wild state in significant numbers only in northern Scandinavia and Russia and in the Balkan Peninsula. Elsewhere they exist mainly in protected preserves. Reindeer (domesticated caribou) are herded by the Saami of the far north. Chamois and ibex are found in the higher elevations of the Pyrenees and Alps. Europe still has many smaller animals, such as weasel, ferret, hare, rabbit, hedgehog, lemming, fox, and squirrel. The large number of birds indigenous to Europe include eagle, falcon, finch, nightingale, owl, pigeon, sparrow, and thrush. Storks are thought to bring good luck to the houses on which they nest, particularly in the Low Countries, and swans ornament many European rivers and lakes. Scottish, Irish, and Rhine salmon are prized fish here, and in the coastal marine waters are found a large variety of fish, including the commercially important cod, mackerel, herring, and tuna. The Black and Caspian seas contain sturgeon, the source of caviar. Mineral Resources Europe has a wide variety of mineral resources. Coal is found in great quantity in several places in Britain, and the Ruhr district of Germany and Ukraine also have extensive coal beds. In addition, important coal deposits are found in Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Spain. Major sources of European iron ore today are the mines at Kiruna in northern Sweden, the Lorraine region of France, and Ukraine. Europe has a number of small petroleum and natural-gas producing areas, but the two major regions are the North Sea (with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Norway owning most of the rights) and the former Soviet republics, especially Russia. Among the many other mineral deposits of Europe are copper, lead, tin, bauxite, manganese, nickel, gold, silver, potash, clay, gypsum, dolomite, and salt. Agriculture Farming in Europe is generally of the mixed type, in which a variety of crops and animal products are produced in the same region. The European portion of the former USSR is one of the few large regions where one-product agriculture predominates. The Mediterranean nations maintain a distinctive type of agriculture, dominated by the production of wheat, olives, grapes, and citrus fruit. In most of these countries farming plays a more important role in the national economy than in the northern countries. Throughout much of western Europe dairying and meat production are major activities. To the east, crops become more important. In the nations of the Balkan Peninsula, crops account for some 60 percent of agricultural production, and in Ukraine wheat production overshadows all other agriculture. Europe as a whole is particularly noted for its great output of wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, beans, peas, and sugar beets. Besides dairy and beef cattle, large numbers of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are raised by Europeans. In the late 20th century Europe was self-sufficient in most basic farm products. On most farmland advanced agricultural techniques, including the application of modern machinery and chemical fertilizers, were used, but in parts of southern and southeastern Europe, traditional, relatively inefficient techniques were still dominant. For much of the period when the Communists held power, agriculture in the countries of the Eastern bloc (with the exception of Poland and Yugoslavia) and the USSR was based on large, state-owned farms and state-dominated collectives. Forestry and Fishing The northern forests, which extend from Norway through northern European Russia, are the main sources of forest products in Europe. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia all have relatively large forestry industries, producing pulpwood, wood for construction, and other products. In southern Europe, both Spain and Portugal produce a variety of cork products from the cork oak. Although all of the coastal European countries engage in some commercial fishing, the industry is especially important in the northern countries, particularly Norway and Denmark. Spain, Russia, Britain, and Poland also are major fishing nations. Mining The present pattern of population distribution in much of Europe has been influenced by past mining activities, particularly coal mining. Coal mined in such areas as the British Midlands, the Ruhr district of Germany, and Ukraine attracted factories and helped establish the industrial patterns that continue today. Although employment in mining is declining in Europe, largely because of mechanization, several centers are still important. Northeastern England, the Ruhr region, the Silesian area of Poland, and Ukraine are major coal producers. Iron ore is produced in large quantities in northern Sweden, eastern France, and Ukraine. A wide range of other minerals, such as bauxite, copper, manganese, nickel, and potash, are mined in substantial amounts. One of the newest and most important extracting industries in Europe is the production of petroleum and natural gas from offshore fields in the North Sea. These products have been extracted in great quantity for longer periods in the southern part of European Russia, notably in the Volga River region. Romania, republic in southeastern Europe, bounded on the north by Ukraine, on the east by Moldova, on the southeast by the Black Sea, on the south by Bulgaria, on the southwest by Serbia (a constituent republic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), and on the west by Hungary. Bucharest is its capital and largest city. Although rich in culture and natural resources, Romania has long been one of Europe’s poorest and least developed nations. Foreign powers, including the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, controlled the country for much of its history. In 1948 Communists took control of Romania and modeled the government and economy after those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However, in the 1960s Romania’s Communist leaders began to distance themselves from the USSR and develop their own domestic and foreign policies. Romania’s economy grew during the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1980s most Romanians were suffering from food shortages and other economic hardships. In 1989 Romanians revolted against the repressive dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauºescu, the country’s president and Communist Party leader. Ceauºescu was executed, and a non-Communist government was installed. The first free multiparty elections took place in Romania in 1990. LAND AND RESOURCES Romania has a total land area of about 237,500 sq km (about 91,700 sq mi). The country is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum distance from east to west of about 720 km (about 450 mi) and a maximum distance from north to south of about 515 km (about 320 mi). A long chain of mountain ranges curves through northern and central Romania. The Danube River forms much of the country’s southern and southwestern borders with Bulgaria and Serbia, and the Prut River divides Romania from its northeastern neighbor Moldova. Natural Regions Transylvania, an extensive elevated plateau region that reaches a maximum height of about 600 m (about 2000 ft), occupies most of central and northwestern Romania. Transylvania is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, a large mountain system of central and eastern Europe. The Eastern Carpathians extend from the northern border to the center of the country and contain the forested region of Bukovina; the Southern Carpathians, also known as the Transylvanian Alps, stretch westward from the Eastern Carpathian range; and the Western Carpathians traverse the western portion of Romania. The Southern Carpathians contain the country’s highest peak, Moldoveanu, which reaches an elevation of 2543 m (8343 ft). The geological structure of the Carpathians has given rise to severe earthquakes: in 1977 an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale inflicted serious damage on Bucharest and claimed more than 1500 lives. Another earthquake measuring 6.0 was registered in 1990. The areas stretching outward from Romania’s mountainous interior contain hills and tablelands full of orchards and vineyards, and flat lowlands where cereal and vegetable farming takes place. Western Romania is dominated by the Tisza Plain, which borders both Hungary and Serbia; the section of the plain that borders Serbia is generally known as the region of Banat, while the section that borders Hungary is commonly referred to as Criºana-Maramureº. To the east of central Romania, stretching from the Carpathians to the Prut River along the Moldovan border, lies the region of Moldavia. Southern Romania contains the region of Walachia, which stretches from the southernmost mountains to the Danube and contains the city of Bucharest. The small region of Dobruja, located in the extreme southeast between the Danube River and the Black Sea, is an important tourist center. Rivers and Lakes The most important river of Romania is the Danube. Its lower course forms a delta that covers much of northeastern Dobruja. Most of Romania’s major rivers are part of the Danube system; these include the Mureº, the Someº, the Olt, the Prut, and the Siret. Romania has many small, freshwater mountain lakes, but the largest lakes are saline lagoons on the coast of the Black Sea; the largest of these is Lake Razelm. Plant and Animal Life Wooded steppe, now largely cleared for agriculture, dominates the plains of Walachia and Moldavia. Fruit trees are common in the foothills of the mountains. The lower slopes have forests with such deciduous trees as birch, beech, and oak. The forests of the higher altitudes are coniferous, consisting largely of pine and spruce trees. Above the timberline (approximately 1750 m/5740 ft), the vegetation is alpine. Wild animal life is abundant in most parts of Romania. The larger animals, found chiefly in the Carpathian Mountains, include wild boar, wolves, lynx, foxes, bears, chamois, roe deer, and goats. In the plains, squirrels, hare, badgers, and polecats are common. Many species of birds are abundant; the Danube delta region, now partly a nature preserve, is a stopover point for migratory birds. Among species of fish found in the rivers and offshore are pike, sturgeon, carp, flounder, herring, salmon, perch, and eel. Natural Resources The principal resources of Romania are agricultural, but the country also has significant mineral deposits, particularly petroleum, natural gas, salt, hard coal, lignite (brown coal), iron ore, copper, bauxite, chromium, manganese, lead, and zinc. Timber is also an important natural resource. About 43 percent of land in Romania is cultivated for crops or used for orchards, and the soils in most parts of the country are fertile. In Banat, Walachia, and Moldavia, soils consist mainly of chernozem, or black earth, highly suited for growing grain. Soils in Transylvania are generally lower in nutrients. Agriculture Field crops or orchards occupy 43 percent of land in Romania. In the mid-1980s more than 80 percent of farms in Romania were either owned by the state or organized as collectives; in collective farms, workers received wages, farm products, and a portion of the farm’s profits. Because of the Communist government’s emphasis on industrial development, agricultural improvements and investments were neglected, and food shortages developed in the 1980s. After the Communist regime was overthrown, Romania’s new government began the process of dissolving collective farms and distributing land to individual farmworkers. Although state farms were not broken up, farmworkers whose land had been incorporated into state farms were compensated. By 1994 about 46 percent of agricultural land had been returned to its original owners or their heirs, and by 1995 more than three-fourths of Romania’s farmland had been privatized. In 1992 a severe drought caused a major decline in agricultural output; by the following year, however, the sector had largely recovered. In the early 1990s Romania’s principal crops were grains, including corn, wheat, barley, and rye; potatoes; grapes; and sugar beets. Cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and poultry were the most important types of livestock. Wine production plays a significant role in Romanian agriculture. Forestry and Fishing Forests, which cover 27 percent of Romania’s total land area, are state property. The country’s timber provides the basis for important lumber, paper, and furniture industries. The Black Sea and the Danube delta regions are known for their sturgeon catch, and the country undertakes considerable fishing operations in the Atlantic Ocean. Mining Petroleum is Romania’s principal mineral resource, and the city of Ploiesti is the center of the petroleum industry. However, petroleum production is declining due to the gradual depletion of reserves. Although important new deposits were found under the Black Sea in the 1980s, petroleum reserves are expected to be exhausted by 2000. Natural gas is produced in significant quantities. Other mineral products include lignite (brown coal), hard coal, iron ore, bauxite, copper, lead, and zinc. Federal Republic of Germany (German Bundesrepublik Deutschland), major industrialized nation in central Europe, a federal union of 16 states (Länder). Germany has a long, complex history and rich culture, but it did not become a unified nation until 1871. Before that time, Germany had been a confederacy (1815-1867) and, before 1806, a federal empire comprising many separate and quite different principalities. LAND AND RESOURCES Germany ranks as the fourth largest country in Europe, after European Russia (the part of Russia west of the Ural Mountains), France, and Spain. Germany is bounded on the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea; on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic; on the south by Austria and Switzerland; and on the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Stretching from the Baltic and North seas to the Alps, Germany measures about 800 km (about 500 mi) from north to south; the country extends about 600 km (about 400 mi) from west to east. In addition to coastline and mountains, the varied terrain includes forests, hills, plains, and river valleys. Several navigable rivers traverse the uplands, and canals connect the river systems of the Elbe, Rhine, see Main, and Danube rivers and link the North Sea with the Baltic. Rivers and Lakes Rivers have played a major role in German development. The Rhine River flows in a northwesterly direction from Switzerland through much of western Germany and the Netherlands into the North Sea. It is a major European waterway and a pillar of economic development. Its main German tributaries include the Main, Mosel, Neckar, and Ruhr rivers. The Oder River, along the border between Poland and Germany, runs northward and empties into the Baltic; it provides another important path for waterborne freight. The Elbe River originates in the Czech mountains and traverses eastern and western Germany toward the northwest until it empties into the North Sea at the large seaport of Hamburg. The Danube River connects southern Germany with Austria and Eastern Europe. Since the recent construction of the Rhine-Danube Canal, freight can be transported by barge from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Smaller rivers such as the Neisse and Weser also play a significant role as transport routes. There are several large lakes, including the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) in extreme southwest Germany and the glacial moraine lakes of Bavaria, but none of them have rivaled the importance of rivers in German economic development. Plant and Animal Life Once a country of deep forests, Germany today includes mostly areas that have long been cleared. However, forest conservation since the 18th century has preserved large areas of oak, ash, elm, beech, birch, pine, fir, and larch. About one-third of the country is woodland. Of the many animals that once roamed the forests, deer, red foxes, hares, and weasels are still common, but these animals and wilder game such as wild boars, wildcats, and badgers depend increasingly on conservation efforts. Private hunting licenses are extremely expensive, and even fishing in the streams and lakes where edible species abound is not encouraged. Instead, there is a good deal of fish farming, including trout and carp; deer are also commercially produced to satisfy the demand for venison. Many species of songbirds migrate to Germany every year, as do storks, geese, and other larger fowl that fly in over the Mediterranean Sea from Africa. Herring, flounder, cod, and ocean perch are found in coastal waters. Natural Resources The presence of coal and iron ore encouraged German industrial development in the late 19th century. Most of the deposits were found in close proximity to one another, allowing for the convenient use of coal as fuel first to process the iron into steel and then to manufacture products from the steel. The availability of inexpensive transport by water, and later by land, facilitated the growth of manufacturing and encouraged exports. The presence of certain minerals in great quantity, such as potash and salt, permitted the development of a chemical industry, including the production of fertilizers and pharmaceuticals. The availability of wood, petroleum, natural gas, brown coal (also known as lignite), and hydroelectric power further smoothed the path of German industrial progress. Italy (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, bounded on the north by Switzerland and Austria; on the east by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea; on the south by the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the northwest by France. It comprises, in addition to the Italian mainland, the Mediterranean islands of Elba, Sardinia, and Sicily and many lesser islands. Enclaves within mainland Italy are the independent countries of San Marino and Vatican City; the latter is a papal state mostly enclosed by Rome, the capital and largest city of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq mi). LAND AND RESOURCES More than half of Italy consists of the Italian Peninsula, a long projection of the continental mainland. Shaped much like a boot, the Italian Peninsula extends generally southeast into the Mediterranean Sea. From northwest to southeast, the country is about 1145 km (about 710 mi) long; with the addition of the southern peninsular extremity, which extends north to south, it is about 1360 km (about 845 mi) long. The maximum width of the mainland portion of Italy is about 610 km (about 380 mi) in the north; the maximum width of the peninsula is about 240 km (about 150 mi). On the northern frontiers are the Alps, which extend in a wide arc from Ventimiglia on the west to Gorizia on the east, and include such high peaks as Monte Cervino (4477 m/ 14,688 ft) and Monte Rosa, which rises to its highest point (4634 m/ 15,203 ft) in Switzerland just west of the border. The highest point in Italy is near the summit of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), on the border of Italy, France, and Switzerland; the peak, located in France, is 4807 m (15,771 ft). Between the Alps and the Apennines, which form the backbone of the Italian Peninsula, spreads the broad Plain of Lombardy, comprising the valley of the Po River. The northern Apennines project from the Maritime Alps along the Gulf of Genoa to the sources of the Tiber River. Monte Cimone (2163 m/7097 ft) is the highest summit of the northern Apennines. The central Apennines, beginning at the source of the Tiber, consist of several chains. In the eastern portion of this rugged mountain district is Monte Corno (2912 m/ 9554 ft), the highest Apennine peak. The southern Apennines stretch southeast from the valley of the Sangro River to the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where they assume a more southerly direction. High peaks of the Apennine ranges of the Calabrian Peninsula, as the southern extremity of the Italian Peninsula is known, include Botte Donato (1929 m/6329 ft) and Montalto (1957 m/6422 ft). The Apennines form the watershed of the Italian Peninsula. The main uplifts are bordered by less elevated districts, known collectively as the sub-Apennine region. Only about one-third of the total land surface of Italy is made of plains, of which the greatest single tract is the Plain of Lombardy. The coast of Italy along the northern Adriatic Sea is low and sandy, bordered by shallow waters and, except at Venice, not readily accessible to oceangoing vessels. From a point near Rimini southward, the eastern coast of the peninsula is fringed by spurs of the Apennines. Along the middle of the western coast, however, are three stretches of low and marshy land, the Campagna di Roma, the Pontine Marshes, and the Maremma. The western coast of Italy is broken up by bays, gulfs, and other indentations, which provide a number of natural anchorages. In the northwest is the Gulf of Genoa, the harbor of the important commercial city of Genoa. Naples, another leading western coast port, is situated on the beautiful Bay of Naples, dominated by the volcano Mount Vesuvius. A little farther south is the Gulf of Salerno, at the head of which stands the port of Salerno. The southeastern end of the peninsula is deeply indented by the Gulf of Taranto, which divides the so-called heel of Italy (ancient Calabria) from the toe (modern Calabria). The Apennine range continues beneath the narrow Strait of Messina and traverses the island of Sicily, where the volcano Mount Etna, 3323 m (10,902 ft) high, is located. Another active volcano rises on Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands (Isole Eolie), northwest of the Strait of Messina. In addition to volcanic activity, Italy is also plagued by frequent minor earthquakes, especially in the southern regions. Rivers and Lakes Italy has many rivers, of which the Po and the Adige are the most important. The Po, 652 km (405 mi) long, is navigable for about 480 km (about 300 mi) and with its tributaries affords about 970 km (about 600 mi) of inland waterways. The Adige, 410 km (255 mi) long, enters Italy from the Austrian province of Tirol (Tyrol), flows east, and, like the Po, empties into the Adriatic. The beds of these rivers are slowly being elevated by alluvial deposits from the mountains. The rivers of the Italian Peninsula are shallow, often dry during the summer season, and consequently of little importance for navigation or industry. The chief peninsular rivers are the Arno and the Tiber. From its sources in the Apennines, the Arno flows west for about 240 km (about 150 mi), through a well-cultivated valley and the cities of Florence and Pisa. The Tiber rises not far from the sources of the Arno and runs through the city of Rome. Both the northern and peninsular regions of Italy have numerous lakes. The principal lakes of northern Italy are Garda, Maggiore, Como, and Lugano; the peninsular lakes, which are considerably smaller, include Trasimeno, Bolsena, and Bracciano. Natural Resources Italy is poor in natural resources, much of the land being unsuitable for agriculture due to mountainous terrain or unfavorable climate. Italy, moreover, is seriously deficient in such basic natural resources as coal. The most important mineral resources are natural gas, petroleum, lignite, sulfur, and pyrites. Other mineral deposits include lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, and bauxite. Many of these deposits are on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. However, they had been heavily depleted by the early 1990s. Italy is rich in various types of building stone, notably marble. The coastal waters of Italy teem with fishes, of which sardine, tuna, and anchovy have the greatest commercial importance. Freshwater fishes include eels and trout. Plants and Animals The flora of the central and southern lowlands of Italy is typically Mediterranean. Among the characteristic vegetation of these regions are such trees as the olive, orange, lemon, palm, and citron. Other common types, especially in the extreme south, are fig, date, pomegranate, and almond trees, and sugarcane and cotton. The vegetation of the Apennines closely resembles that of central Europe. Dense growths of chestnut, cypress, and oak trees occupy the lower slopes, and at higher elevations, there are extensive stands of pine and fir. Italy has fewer varieties of animals than are found generally in comparable areas of Europe. Small numbers of marmot, chamois, and ibex live in the Alps. The bear, numerous in ancient times, is now virtually extinct, but the wolf and wild boar still flourish in the mountain regions. Another fairly common quadruped is the fox. Among the predatory species of bird are the eagle hawk, vulture, buzzard, falcon, and kite, confined for the most part to the mountains. The quail, woodcock, partridge, and various migratory species abound in many parts of Italy. Reptiles include several species of lizards and snakes and three species of the poisonous viper family. Scorpions are also found. Netherlands, also known unofficially as Holland, constitutional monarchy of northwestern Europe, bordered on the north and west by the North Sea, on the east by Germany, and on the south by Belgium. With Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands forms the Low, or Benelux, Countries. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, islands in the Caribbean, are part of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands has a total area of 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi), of which 33,939 sq km (13,104 sq mi) is land surface. The country’s capital and largest city is Amsterdam. LAND AND RESOURCES The Netherlands, as its name suggests, is a low-lying country. About half of the country’s landmass lies below sea level. This amount would increase should the polar ice caps melt and slowly raise the level of the sea due to global warming. Much of the western part, situated below sea level, is covered with clay and peat soils interspersed with canals, rivers, and arms of the sea. Farther to the east the land lies slightly above sea level and is flat to gently rolling. The elevation rarely exceeds 50 m (160 ft). Most of the land is devoted to agriculture; only small areas of forest and heath remain. Rivers and Lakes The major rivers of the Netherlands are the Rhine, flowing from Germany, and its several arms, such as the Waal and Lek rivers; and the Maas (a branch of the Meuse) and the Schelde (Escaut), flowing from Belgium. These rivers and their arms form the delta with its many islands. Together with numerous canals, the rivers give ships access to the interior of Europe. In the northern and western portions of the Netherlands are many small lakes. Nearly all the larger natural lakes have been pumped dry, but the delta redevelopment program and the reclamation of the Zuider Zee have created numerous new freshwater lakes, the largest being the Ijsselmeer. Vegetation and Animal Life The natural landscape of the Netherlands has been altered by humans in many ways over the centuries. Because land is scarce and fully exploited, areas of natural vegetation are not extensive. The tall grasses of the dunes and the heather of the heaths continue to provide habitats for rabbits, but larger wildlife, such as deer, have disappeared except in parks. The remnants of oak, beech, ash, and pine forests are carefully managed. Land reclamation projects have created new habitats for many species of migratory birds. Mineral Resources The Netherlands was long thought to be poor in mineral resources. Peat, used as fuel, was dug in several regions, and southern Limburg Province was known to contain coal deposits. Salt also was produced. In the 1950s and 1960s great natural-gas reserves were discovered in Groningen Province. Smaller deposits of crude petroleum are located in the northeastern and western parts of the country. Agriculture Despite the small size and dense population of the Netherlands, agriculture is highly productive and a major generator of exports. The export value of meat, flowers, vegetables, butter, cheese, and other dairy products substantially exceeds the value of imported grain, tropical products, and animal fodder. This specialized agriculture occurs mainly on small family farms. Cultivated fields cover 26 percent of the land. Crop production in 1997 (in metric tons) included cereals, principally wheat, 1.6 million; roots and tubers such as potatoes and sugar beets, 8.1; vegetables, 3.7 million; and fruits, 657,500. There were 4.4 million cattle, 14.3 million pigs, and 92 million poultry. The Netherlands became famous for its tulip breeders in the 18th century, and today flowers and bulbs are important exports. The need to increase yields on limited tracts of land has made Dutch farmers heavy users of chemical fertilizers, which can contaminate groundwater. To combat this problem, the government has promoted efforts to reduce pollutants. Forestry and Fishing Because little of the Netherlands is covered by forest, timber production is of minor importance. Fishing, however, is a traditional activity that continues to be significant despite the reduction of the stock resulting partly from water pollution in the North Sea. Atlantic horse mackerel, Atlantic herring, European plaice, blue mussel, Atlantic mackerel, common sole, Atlantic cod, blue whiting, and shrimp are leading components of the catch, which totaled 521,377 metric tons in 1995. Energy and Mining The industrial structure of the Netherlands is closely related to the country’s sources of energy. For centuries the Dutch relied heavily on windmills and peat for energy. As these became outmoded, coal increased in importance. Deposits in Limburg Province supplied a part of Dutch needs, but most coal was imported. Petroleum and natural gas became increasingly important after World War II; these fuels also were imported, and the port of Rotterdam became a leading center for receiving and refining petroleum. In the 1950s and 1960s the Dutch discovered large reserves of natural gas in Groningen Province. Production rose rapidly, permitting the last domestic coal mines to be closed in 1973 and making the Netherlands a major exporter of natural gas. In 1996 the output of crude petroleum was 20.5 million barrels, and of natural gas, 95.4 billion cu m (3.4 trillion cu ft), making the Netherlands one of the world’s largest producers. The output of electricity totaled 80 billion kilowatt-hours in 1996, 95 of which was produced in thermal plants burning fossil fuels. North America, 3rd largest of the seven continents, including Canada (the 2nd largest country in area in the world), the United States (4th largest), and Mexico (13th largest). The continent also includes Greenland, the largest island, as well as the small French overseas department of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and the British dependency of Bermuda (both made up of small islands in the Atlantic Ocean). With more than 360 million inhabitants (1989 estimate), North America is the 4th most populous continent; the United States ranks 4th and Mexico 11th in population among the world's countries. Canada and the United States have technologically developed early modern economies, and Mexico, although less technologically developed than its neighbors, contains some of the world's greatest deposits of petroleum and natural gas. Vegetation The natural vegetation of North America has been significantly modified by human activity, but its general nature is still apparent over much of the continent. The most notable forest is the taiga, or boreal forest, an enormous expanse of mostly coniferous trees (especially spruce, fir, hemlock, and larch) that covers most of southern and central Canada and extends into Alaska. In the eastern United States a mixed forest, dominated by deciduous trees in the north and by various species of yellow pine in the southeast, has mostly been cleared or cut over, but a considerable area has regrown since the 1940s. In the western portion of the continent, forests are primarily associated with mountain ranges, and coniferous trees are dominant. In California, the redwood and giant sequoia grow to enormous size. A great mixture of species characterizes the tropical forests of Mexico. The vegetation cover in the drier parts of the continent is made up mainly of grassland and shrubland. The central plains and prairies of the United States and southern Canada were originally grass covered, but much of the natural flora has been replaced by commercial crops. The dry lands of the western United States and northern Mexico are sparsely covered with a variety of shrubs and many kinds of cactus. Beyond the tree line in the far north is a region of tundra, containing a mixture of low-growing sedges, grasses, mosses, and lichens. Animal Life The native wildlife of North America was once numerous and diverse, but the spread of human settlement has resulted in contracting habitats and diminishing numbers. In general, the fauna of North America is similar to that of the northern areas of Europe and Asia. Notable large mammals include several kinds of bear, the largest being the grizzly; bighorn sheep; bison, now only in protected herds; caribou; moose, called elk in Europe; musk-ox; and wapiti. Large carnivores include the puma and, in southernmost regions, the jaguar; the wolf and its smaller relative, the coyote; and, in the far north, the polar bear. One species of marsupial, the common opossum, is indigenous to the continent. A few of the many reptiles are poisonous, including the coral snake, pit vipers such as the rattlesnake and copperhead, and the Gila monster and beaded lizard of the southwestern United States and Mexico, the only poisonous lizards in the world. A great variety of finfish and shellfish live in the marine waters off North America, and many kinds of fish are found in its freshwater rivers and lakes. Mineral Resources North America has large deposits of many important minerals. Petroleum and natural gas are found in great quantity in northern Alaska, western Canada, the southern and western conterminous United States, and eastern Mexico; huge beds of coal are in eastern and western Canada and the United States; and great iron-ore deposits are in eastern Canada, the northern United States, and central Mexico. Canada also has major deposits of copper, nickel, uranium, zinc, asbestos, and potash; the United States contains great amounts of copper, molybdenum, nickel, phosphate rock, and uranium; and Mexico has large reserves of barite, copper, fluorite, lead, zinc, manganese, and sulfur. All three countries have significant deposits of gold and silver. Agriculture Farming is relatively more important in Mexico than in the other North American countries and provides employment for about 25 percent of the labor force (compared with some 3 percent in the United States and 5 percent in Canada). Subsistence farming is still important throughout Mexico, especially in the south; commercial agriculture is well developed in many areas, however, particularly in the central plateau and in the north. The leading commodities are corn, wheat, and beans, which are raised mostly for domestic consumption, and cotton, cattle, coffee, and sugar, which are produced largely for export. Agriculture in the United States and Canada is dominated by highly mechanized farms, which produce immense quantities of crops, livestock, and livestock products. The Great Plains of the central United States and the Canadian Prairie provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan) are major world producers of grain (particularly wheat, but also barley, oats, rye, and grain sorghum), oilseeds, and livestock (dairy and beef cattle and sheep). Perhaps the world's finest large farming area is the Corn Belt, that part of the U.S. Middle West from western Ohio to eastern Nebraska, which is the world's largest producer of corn, as well as a major supplier of other grains, soybeans, cattle, and hogs. Farming in California yields a huge amount of high-value irrigated crops, notably fruits and vegetables. Florida and Texas also are great producers of fruits and vegetables, and potatoes are grown in vast quantities in Idaho, Washington State, Oregon, Maine, North Dakota, and southeastern Canada. Other outstanding agricultural products include cotton, broiler chickens, dairy products, and sugarcane. Forestry and Fishing Forestry is an important sector of the Canadian economy, especially in British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec Province. Notable forest-products industries also flourish in the western United States (particularly in Washington, Oregon, and California) and in the southeastern United States. Fishing is the leading economic activity in Greenland but is a relatively unimportant sector in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, even though the catch is large and some coastal areas are dependent on revenues from sales of finfish and shellfish. Besides the waters near Greenland, major fishing grounds are off the northern Pacific coast, off the northern Atlantic coast, and off the southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. In addition, large tuna fleets are based in southern California and western Mexico. Mining The extraction of minerals is an increasingly important economic activity in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The United States has been one of the world's leading petroleum producers for many years, Canada has been a major producer since the late 1940s, and Mexico became a world leader in oil production in the late 1970s. The United States ranks second among world natural-gas producers and is also a leader in mining coal, produced particularly in the vast Appalachian fields. Iron ore has long been a major product of both the United States and Canada, primarily from deposits around the western end of Lake Superior. More recently, much iron ore has been produced in the Québec Province-Labrador border area of eastern Canada. Among the other minerals that have been recovered in quantity in North America are copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel, sulfur, asbestos, uranium, phosphate rock, and potash. Australia, island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the Commonwealth of Australia, a self-governing member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The continent is bounded on the north by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Torres Strait; on the east by the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea; on the south by the Bass Strait and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Indian Ocean. The commonwealth extends for about 4000 km (about 2500 mi) from east to west and for about 3700 km (about 2300 mi) from north to south. Its coastline measures some 25,760 km (about 16,010 mi). The area of the commonwealth is 7,682,300 sq km (2,966,200 sq mi), and the area of the continent alone is 7,614,500 sq km (2,939,974 sq mi), making Australia the smallest continent in the world, but the sixth largest country. LAND AND RESOURCES Australia lacks mountains of great height; it is one of the world’s flattest landmasses. The average elevation is about 300 m (about 1000 ft). The interior, referred to as the outback, is predominantly a series of great plains, or low plateaus, which are generally higher in the northeast. Low-lying coastal plains, averaging about 65 km (about 40 mi) in width, fringe the continent. In the east, southeast, and southwest, these plains are the most densely populated areas of Australia. In the east the coastal plains are separated from the vast interior plains by the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands. This mountainous region averages approximately 1200 m (approximately 4000 ft) in height and stretches along the eastern coast from Cape York in the north to Victoria in the southeast. Much of the region consists of high plateaus broken by gorges and canyons. Subdivisions of the range bear many local names, including, from north to south, the New England Plateau, Blue Mountains, and Australian Alps; in Victoria, where the range extends westward, it is known as the Grampians, or by its Aboriginal name, Gariwerd. The highest peak in the Australian Alps, and the highest in Australia, is Mount Kosciusko (2228 m/7310 ft), in New South Wales. A section of the Great Dividing Range is in Tasmania, which is located about 240 km (about 150 mi) from the southeastern tip of the continent and is separated from it by Bass Strait. The waters of the strait are shallow, with an average depth of 70 m (230 ft). The major islands in the strait are the Furneaux Group and Kent Group in the east, and King, Hunter, Three Hummock, and Robbins islands in the west. The western half of the continent is a great plateau, about 300 to 450 m (about 1000 to 1500 ft) above sea level. The Great Western Plateau includes the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, and Gibson deserts. Western Australia has, in its northern half, several isolated mountain ranges, including the King Leopold and Hamersley ranges. The interior is relatively flat except for several eroded mountain chains, such as the Stuart Range and the Musgrave Ranges in the northern part of South Australia and the Macdonnell Ranges in the southern part of the Northern Territory. The central basin, or the Central-Eastern Lowlands, is an area of vast, rolling plains that extends west from the Great Dividing Range to the Great Western Plateau. In this region lies the richest pastoral and agricultural land in Australia. Uluru (Ayers Rock), in the center of Australia in Uluru National Park, is believed to be the largest monolith in the world. It is 9 km (6 mi) around its base and rises sharply to some 348 m (1142 ft) above the surrounding flat, arid land. Other mountain ranges of limited size in the central part of Australia are the Flinders Ranges and Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia. The area along the south central coast is called the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor is a vast, arid limestone plateau that is virtually uninhabited. It has an extensive system of caverns, tunnels, and sinkholes that contain valuable geological information about life in ancient Australia. Extinct volcanic craters are located in the southeastern part of South Australia and in Victoria. The coastline of Australia is generally regular, with few bays or capes. The largest inlets are the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north and the Great Australian Bight in the south. The several fine harbors include those of Sydney, Hobart, Port Lincoln, and Albany. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest known coral formation in the world. It extends some 2010 km (some 1250 mi) along the eastern coast of Queensland from Cape York in the north to Bundaberg in the south. The chain of reefs forms a natural breakwater for the passage of ships along the coast. Rivers The Great Dividing Range separates rivers that flow east to the coast from those that flow across the great plains through the interior. The most important of the rivers that flow toward the eastern coast are the Burdekin, Fitzroy, and Hunter. The Murray-Darling-Murrumbidgee network, which flows inland from the Great Dividing Range, drains an area of more than 1 million sq km (more than 400,000 sq mi) in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. The Murray River and its main tributary, the Darling, total about 5300 km (about 3300 mi) in length. The Murray River itself forms most of the border between New South Wales and Victoria. Considerable lengths of the Murray, Darling, and Murrumbidgee rivers are navigable during the wet seasons. The central plains region, also known as the Channel Country, is interlaced by a network of rivers. During the rainy season these rivers flood the low-lying countryside, but in dry months they become merely a series of water holes. The Victoria, Daly, and Roper rivers drain a section of Northern Territory. In Queensland the main rivers flowing north to the Gulf of Carpentaria are the Mitchell, Flinders, Gilbert, and Leichhardt. Western Australia has few major rivers. The most important are the Fitzroy, Ashburton, Gascoyne, Murchison, and Swan rivers. Because of Australia’s scarce water resources, dams have been constructed on some rivers to supply cities with water and to support irrigation farming. The Snowy Mountains Scheme (1949-1972) and the Ord River Scheme (1960-1972) are the two largest water-conservation projects. The Snowy Mountains Scheme, in the southeastern highlands in New South Wales, is an enormous, multipurpose engineering project that was financed by the federal and state governments to supply water for irrigation, domestic and livestock use, and for the generation of hydroelectricity. The Ord River Scheme is an irrigation project in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. During its construction the scheme attracted criticism from economists, environmentalists, and agriculture scientists, and today questions remain about its viability. Lakes and Underground Water Most of the major natural lakes of Australia contain salt water. The great network of salt lakes in South Australia—Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, Lake Frome, and Lake Gairdner—is the remains of a vast inland sea that once extended south from the Gulf of Carpentaria. During the dry season many of the salt lakes become salt-encrusted swamp beds or clay pans. Lake Argyle, created by the construction of the Ord River Scheme, is Australia’s largest artificially created freshwater lake. Great areas of the interior, which otherwise would be useless for agriculture, contain water reserves beneath the surface of the land. These artesian water reserves, usually found at a great depth, are tapped by drilling to provide water essential for livestock. Artesian water reserves underlie about 2.5 million sq km (about 1 million sq mi) of Australia. The Great Artesian Basin, extending from the Gulf of Carpentaria into the northern part of New South Wales, includes more than 1.7 million sq km (700,000 sq mi). Other artesian basins are in the northwest, southeast, and along the Great Australian Bight. Natural Resources Australia is rich in mineral resources, notably bauxite, coal, diamonds, gold, iron ore, mineral sands, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, and uranium. Readily cultivatable farmland is at a premium because much of the land is desert. Australia, however, has become one of the leading agricultural producers in the world by applying modern irrigation techniques to vast tracts of arid soil. Plants The continent of Australia has a distinctive flora that includes many species not found elsewhere. Of the 22,000 species of plants in Australia, more than 90 percent occur naturally there. Some 840 species are threatened with extinction, and 83 have become extinct since the beginning of European settlement. Approximately 2000 plant species are introduced, or nonnative, species. Most have been associated with the development of agriculture and grazing, or with the establishment of large plantations of pines for commercial softwood. The spread of weeds and other aggressive introduced plants into areas of original vegetation is a serious environmental challenge. Australia’s vegetation is predominantly evergreen, ranging from the dense bushland and eucalyptus forests of the coast, to mulga and mallee scrub and saltbush of the inland plains. The tropical northeastern belt, with its heavy rainfall and high temperatures, is heavily forested. Palms, ferns, and vines grow prolifically among the oaks, ash, cedar, brush box, and beeches. Mangroves line the mud flats and inlets of the low-lying northern coastline. The crimson waratah, golden-red banksias, and scarlet firewheel tree add color to northern forests. Along the eastern coast and into Tasmania are forests of pine, which ranks second to the eucalyptus in terms of economic importance. The Huon and King William pines are particularly valuable for their timber, but the Huon pine is now considered rare and is usually protected. In the forest regions of the warm, well-watered southeastern and southwestern sectors, eucalyptus predominates; more than 500 species are found, some reaching a height of 90 m (300 ft). The mountain ash, blue gums, and woolly butts of the southeast mingle with undergrowth of wattles and tree ferns. The jarrah and karri species of eucalyptus, which yield timber valued for hardness and durability, and several species of grass tree are unique to Western Australia. The wild flowers of the region are varied and spectacular. In the less dense regions of the interior slopes grow red and green kangaroo paws, scented Boronia, waxflowers, bottle brushes, and smaller eucalypti, such as the stringbark, red gum, and ironbark. More than 500 species of acacia are indigenous to Australia. The scented flower of one acacia, the golden wattle, is the national flower of Australia and appears on the official coat of arms. In the interior region, where rainfall is low and erratic, characteristic plants are saltbush and spinifex grass, which provide fodder for sheep, and mallee and mulga shrubs. The most valuable native grasses for fodder, including flinders grass, are found in Queensland and northern New South Wales. During occasional seasonal floodings, rapid and luxuriant growth of native grasses and desert wildflowers occurs, and water lilies dot the streams and lagoons. Animals Unique and primitive forms of animal life exist in Australia. Seven families of mammals and four families of birds are classified as native to the country. About 70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles, and 94 percent of the frogs are unique to Australia. Seven of the more than 750 known species of birds have become extinct since the beginning of European settlement, and another 45 are endangered or vulnerable. Of mammals, 19 are extinct and 58 are threatened. Environmentalists have argued for more rigorous conservation policies to protect Australia’s unique animal life. One striking aspect of mammal life in Australia is the absence of representatives of most of the orders found on other continents. However, the primitive, egg-laying mammals known as monotremes are found most abundantly in Australia. One of them, the platypus, a zoological curiosity, is an aquatic, furred mammal with a bill like that of a duck and with poisonous spurs. It lives in the streams of southeastern Australia. Another monotreme of Australia is the spiny anteater, or echidna. Most native mammals are marsupials, the young of which are nourished in an external marsupium, or abdominal pouch. The best-known marsupials of Australia are the kangaroos, which include about 50 species. The kangaroo is vegetarian and can be tamed. The large red or gray kangaroo may stand as high as 2 m (7 ft) and can leap up to 9 m (30 ft). The wallaby and kangaroo rat are smaller members of the kangaroo family. The phalangers are herbivorous marsupials that live in trees; they include the possum and the koala, a popular fur-bearing animal that is protected throughout Australia. Other well-known marsupials are the burrowing wombat, bandicoot, and pouched mouse. The carnivorous Tasmanian devil, principally a scavenger, is found only on the island of Tasmania. Rodents, bats, and the dingo, or warrigal, belong to a different order of mammals. The dingo is a doglike night hunter that also preys on sheep; it does not bark, but howls. When Europeans settled in Australia, they brought in many species of animals. The wild descendants of these introduced animals pose serious environmental threats. For example, the European rabbit was brought in mainly for sport in the mid-19th century. These rabbits quickly reached plague proportions in Australia’s receptive environment with no natural predators, and their total population has reached as many as 500 million. The damage they cause includes soil erosion, the destruction of habitat for native species, and large commercial production losses. Rabbits, as well as foxes and cats, have been targeted for massive national efforts in biological control and regional eradication programs. Other destructive animals include pigs, goats, cattle, horses, and camels. In the monsoonal areas of tropical Australia, the Asian water buffalo has increased its population over a vast territory; it is responsible for erosion and the disruption of delicate swamp habitats. The continent contains a variety of reptile life. It has two species of crocodiles, the smaller of which is found in inland fresh waters. The larger, fierce saurian crocodile of the northern coastal swamps and estuaries attains lengths of 6 m (20 ft). There are more than 500 species of lizards, including the gecko, skink, and the giant goanna. About 100 species of venomous snakes are found in Australia. The taipan of the far north, the death adder, the tiger snake of southern Australia, the copperhead, and the black snake are the best known of the poisonous snakes. The waters surrounding Australia support a wide variety of fish and aquatic mammals. Several species of whales are found in southern waters, and seals inhabit parts of the southern coast, the islands in Bass Strait, and Tasmania. The northern waters supply dugong, trepang, trochus, and pearl shell. Edible fish and shellfish are abundant, and the oyster, abalone, and crayfish of the warmer southern waters have been exploited commercially. Australian waters contain some 70 species of shark, several of which are dangerous to humans. The Queensland lungfish, sometimes called a living fossil, is a primitive fish that breathes with a single lung instead of gills. Most insect types are represented in Australia, including flies, beetles, butterflies, bees, and ants. The giant termites of northern Australia build huge, hill-like nests up to 6 m (up to 20 ft) in height. Australia has earthworms in abundance, including the giant earthworms of Victoria, which range from 0.9 to 3.7 m (3 to 12 ft) in length, the longest in the world. Australia is the home of 751 known species of birds, ranging from primitive types, such as the giant, flightless emu and cassowary, to highly developed species. The fan-tailed lyrebird has great powers of mimicry. The male bowerbirds build intricate and decorative playgrounds to attract females. The kookaburra, or laughing jackass, is noted for its raucous laughter. Many varieties of cockatoos and parrots are found; the budgerigar is a favorite of bird fanciers. The white cockatoo, a clever mimic, is more common than the black cockatoo. Black swans, spoonbills, herons, and ducks frequent inland waters. Smaller birds include wrens, finches, titmice, larks, and swallows. Gulls, terns, gannets, muttonbirds, albatrosses, and penguins are the most common seabirds. The muttonbird, found mainly on the islands of Bass Strait, is valued for its flesh. Agriculture Despite the great expansion in mining and manufacturing after 1940, the prosperity of much of the country continues to be dependent on livestock raising and crop farming. The pastoral industry was established in the early days of settlement, when the first Spanish merino sheep were introduced from South Africa. The industry was a significant factor in Australian economic and historical development. Australia currently is the major world producer and exporter of wool, particularly fine merino, although income from wool exports is now less than one-tenth of the total export income of the country. In 1997 the annual production of wool was 688,900 metric tons. About half the country’s wool is produced in New South Wales and Western Australia. In the past the country’s great rabbit population hampered sheep raising by foraging on grazing land. Although rabbits accompanied the First Fleet that arrived in Australia in 1788, their first significant arrival occurred in 1859 at the behest of a landowner, Thomas Austin. The shipment of two dozen wild rabbits was released on his property near Geelong, Victoria. Within three years the rabbits had assumed the proportions of a potential pest. Subsequently, the rabbit population was estimated to have reached some 500 million, or about 50 times the human population of Australia. The virus disease myxomatosis, which attacks rabbits, was introduced in 1936 and proved an effective control for about 20 years. The rabbit population increased markedly thereafter and is again an economic and environmental threat. Queensland is the leading cattle-producing state, containing more than two-fifths of the estimated 26.3 million head of cattle in Australia in 1997. The country produces both beef and dairy cattle. Dairying is concentrated in Victoria and Tasmania. Irrigation is heavily relied on in much of the fruit-growing and dairying regions. In some areas the rising incidence of soil salinization threatens production. Experiments with biotechnologies may reduce the impact of salinization and the use of expensive water resources. Although only 6 percent of the total area of Australia is under crop or fodder production, this acreage is of great economic importance. Wheat crops occupy about 45 percent of cultivated acreage, and other grains occupy about 25 percent. The bulk of the wheat crop is grown in the southeastern and southwestern regions of the country. Production in 1997 was 16.2 million metric tons. Oats, barley, rye, hay, and fodder crops also are important. Rice and cotton are grown in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (in New South Wales) and in the Northern Territory. Sugarcane production is confined to the fertile coastal fringe of Queensland and the Richmond River district of northern New South Wales. Some 40.8 million metric tons of sugarcane were produced in 1997. Many types of fruit are grown, including grapes, oranges, apples, bananas, pears, pineapples, peaches, and nectarines. The major wine-producing areas are in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, and parts of northeastern, southern, and western Victoria. Special varieties of grapes are grown, especially in the Murray Valley, for the production of raisins. Forestry and Fishing Forests cover 5 percent of Australia. The main forest regions, found in the moist coastal and highland belts, consist predominantly of eucalyptus, a hardwood. Eucalyptus wood is widely used in the production of paper and furniture. The jarrah and karri species, which grow in Western Australia, are noted for the durability of their woods. Queensland maple, walnut, and rosewood are prized as cabinet and furniture woods. About one-quarter of the country’s forests are permanently preserved in state reservations. Because of the deficiency in coniferous forests, the country imports large quantities of softwoods. State, federal, and private pine forests have been established to help overcome this deficiency by raising extensive stands of Monterey pine. Australian waters contain a great variety of marine life, but the annual catch is relatively small—219,500 metric tons in 1995. More than 85 percent of the yearly value of exported fishery products is made up of various shellfish, principally scallops, shrimp, spring and green rock lobsters, oysters, and abalone. Marine fishes marketed include orange roughy, sharks and rays, skipjack tuna, mullet, southern bluefin tuna, and royal escolar. Pearls and trochus shells have been harvested off the northern coast since the 1800s. Darwin, Broome, and Thursday Island are the main pearling centers, but cultured pearls are now more significant. The cultured pearl industry is dominated by Japanese-Australian ventures. Australia was a principal whaling nation until the late 1970s, when it agreed to halt most whaling activities in cooperation with an international effort to maintain the whale population. Mining The mining industry, long an important factor in the social and economic growth of Australia, holds great promise for the future development of the country. The gold discoveries of the 1850s were responsible for the first wave of immigration and for settlement of inland areas. Today, Australia is self-sufficient in most minerals of economic significance, and in a few cases is among the world’s leading producers. Annual Australian production of coal, oil, natural gas, and metallic minerals was valued at about $12.4 billion in the early 1990s. Metallic minerals accounted for more than two-fifths percent of the total, with gold and iron ore the most significant components. Western Australia had the largest share of total mineral production, especially of metallic minerals. Australia accounted for some 13 percent of the world’s gold production in 1997. About three-fourths of the nation’s output (289,000 kg/637,000 pounds in 1996) is mined in Western Australia, notably near Kalgoorlie. Most of the gold is exported to Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. Australia is also the world’s largest producer of diamonds, producing about two-fifths of the global total. Production of gem-quality diamonds was 18,897,000 carets in 1996. Much of it came from the giant Argyle Diamond Mine in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. About 95 percent of Australia’s iron-ore production also takes place in Western Australia, in the Pilbara region. Iron-ore reserves also exist at Iron Knob in South Australia; on Cockatoo Island in Yampi Sound off Western Australia; in northwestern Tasmania; and in Gippsland, Victoria. Almost all of the iron ore is exported; Australia is now Japan’s major supplier of iron ore. Other markets include China, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan. Australia is the world’s largest bauxite and alumina producer and the fourth largest aluminum producer. The major bauxite mines are located to the south of Perth in Western Australia; and in the Northern Territory on the Gove Peninsula. Important uranium mines are located in the Northern Territory (Ranger Mine) and at Olympic Dam in South Australia. All uranium is exported. Hard, or black coal, mining is heavily concentrated in New South Wales and Queensland. The lignite, or brown coal, industry is located in Victoria, where it is used to produce electricity. Other major minerals in Australia include nickel, mined near Kalgoorlie; copper, mined at Mount Lyell in Tasmania, Mount Isa in Queensland, and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory; zinc, mined at Broken Hill in New South Wales; and manganese, mined at Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory. Titanium and zircon are recovered from the beach sands of southern Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia. Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania are the main tin-producing states, and tungsten concentrates are mined on King Island in the Bass Strait. Petroleum has been discovered in Western Australia, in southern Queensland, and offshore in Bass Strait. Total production in 1996 was 208 million barrels. Natural gas is also extracted, with annual production of 29.9 billion cu m (1055 billion cu ft). The Arctic or Arctic Regions, large, cold area around the North Pole. The Arctic is not a clearly defined area. It includes the Arctic Ocean, many islands, and parts of the mainlands of North America, Asia, and Europe. Rivers and Lakes Low precipitation is characteristic of the Arctic, so large and elaborate river and lake systems are rare. In many places, however, permafrost (permanently frozen subsoil) restricts the downward drainage of meltwater from snow, and the water accumulates on the surface as shallow lakes, ponds, and marshes. In addition, rivers from more humid regions flow seaward across the dry Arctic terrain. Several large rivers are in the Russian Arctic, and the Mackenzie and Yukon rivers are in North America. Vegetation and Wildlife The Arctic is not a frozen desert devoid of life on land or sea, even during the cold, dark winter months. Spring brings a phenomenal resurgence of plant and animal life. Low temperatures are not always the critical element—moisture, the type of soil, and available solar energy are also extremely important. Some animals adapt well to Arctic conditions; for instance, a number of species of mammals and birds carry additional insulation, such as fat, in cold months. The Arctic has more than 400 species of flowering plants. The vast stretches of tundra that cover the plains and coastal regions consist of low creeping shrubs, grasses, thick growths of lichens and mosses, and herbs and sedges. Abundant animal life inhabits the Arctic, both on land and in the sea. Arctic mammals include polar bear, arctic fox, ermine, marten, arctic wolf, wolverine, walrus, seal, caribou, reindeer (domesticated caribou), musk-ox, lemming, arctic hare, and many species of whale. Birds are plentiful throughout the Arctic. The guillemot and little auk nest by the thousands along cliffs. Ravens, snow buntings, and sandpipers have been seen in the remotest northern land regions, as have the snowy owl and the gyrfalcon. Various species of gull, including the jaeger, also range far to the north. Among other characteristic Arctic birds are the eider duck, teal, loon, petrel, puffin, and ptarmigan. Insects, found in the Arctic wherever vegetation exists, include bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and grasshoppers. Coastal waters are relatively rich in such fish as cod, flatfish, halibut, salmon, and trout. A large variety of invertebrates have been observed in Arctic seas. Mineral Resources Large deposits of several important minerals occur in the Arctic. Among them are petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nickel, lead, zinc, coal, uranium, tin, diamonds, gold, and cryolite. Agriculture The Arctic environment is generally unfavorable to the production of food by cultivation or animal husbandry. Reindeer herding, however, is important in northern Scandinavia and Russia and to a lesser extent in the Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Sheep are raised in southwestern Greenland and in Iceland. Dairy farming to supply nearby communities is widespread; almost 1 million cattle are in northern Russia alone. Fishing Fish from rivers and lakes are important for the diet of people living in the Arctic. Russia has highly developed river fisheries serving the local population as well as customers in distant cities. The Arctic Ocean is among the world’s most important fishing grounds, and many countries send fishing boats to it. Large amounts of cod and shrimp are caught off western Greenland. Mining The recovery of minerals is an important industry in several parts of the Arctic Regions. In Russia, nickel, iron ore, and apatite are produced on the Kola Peninsula, and diamonds are mined in the Lena River valley. Other major mineral products in the Russian Arctic include gold, tin, coal, mica, and tungsten. Sweden has produced iron ore at Kiruna and elsewhere north of the Arctic Circle since about 1900, and Norway has an important iron-ore mine on its northern coast at Kirkenes. Lead, zinc, and molybdenum are produced in Greenland, which formerly recovered much cryolite at Ivigtut. Large coal mines are on Spitsbergen, one of the islands of Svalbard. Mineral products of the Canadian Arctic include uranium, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, asbestos, iron ore, petroleum, and natural gas. Large-scale production of petroleum on the Arctic North Slope of Alaska began in 1977. A proposal in 1987 by the Reagan administration to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development met with strong opposition from various environmental organizations. Agriculture The Arctic environment is generally unfavorable to the production of food by cultivation or animal husbandry. Reindeer herding, however, is important in northern Scandinavia and Russia and to a lesser extent in the Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Sheep are raised in southwestern Greenland and in Iceland. Dairy farming to supply nearby communities is widespread; almost 1 million cattle are in northern Russia alone. Fishing Fish from rivers and lakes are important for the diet of people living in the Arctic. Russia has highly developed river fisheries serving the local population as well as customers in distant cities. The Arctic Ocean is among the world’s most important fishing grounds, and many countries send fishing boats to it. Large amounts of cod and shrimp are caught off western Greenland. Mining The recovery of minerals is an important industry in several parts of the Arctic Regions. In Russia, nickel, iron ore, and apatite are produced on the Kola Peninsula, and diamonds are mined in the Lena River valley. Other major mineral products in the Russian Arctic include gold, tin, coal, mica, and tungsten. Sweden has produced iron ore at Kiruna and elsewhere north of the Arctic Circle since about 1900, and Norway has an important iron-ore mine on its northern coast at Kirkenes. Lead, zinc, and molybdenum are produced in Greenland, which formerly recovered much cryolite at Ivigtut. Large coal mines are on Spitsbergen, one of the islands of Svalbard. Mineral products of the Canadian Arctic include uranium, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, asbestos, iron ore, petroleum, and natural gas. Large-scale production of petroleum on the Arctic North Slope of Alaska began in 1977. A proposal in 1987 by the Reagan administration to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development met with strong opposition from various environmental organizations. South America, the fourth largest of the earth's seven continents (after Asia, Africa, and North America), occupying about 17,819,100 sq km (about 6,880,000 sq mi), or about 12 percent of the earth's land surface. It lies astride the equator and tropic of Capricorn and is joined by the Isthmus of Panama, on the north, to Central and North America. The continent extends about 7400 km (about 4600 mi) from the Caribbean Sea on the north to Cape Horn on the south, and its maximum width, between Ponta do Seixas, on Brazil's Atlantic coast, and Punta Pariñas, on Peru's Pacific coast, is about 5160 km (about 3210 mi). Drainage and Water Resources The greater part of South America is drained to the Atlantic Ocean by three river systems: the Amazon, Orinoco, and Paraguay-Paraná. Each of these large rivers also provides access to the interior. The smaller São Francisco River drains northeastern Brazil. Numerous lesser rivers drain the Caribbean and Pacific flanks of the Andes. The most important of these is the Magdalena River and its tributary, the Cauca River. This system, which drains north through Andean valleys in western Colombia to empty into the Caribbean Sea, has also provided a traditional access route to the interior. Scores of short Andean streams have sustained agriculture for centuries in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and northwestern Argentina. Considerable hydroelectric power potential exists in the streams of the Andes and in those of the Guiana and Brazilian Highlands. The Mantaro Valley hydroelectric scheme in the Andes of Peru provides most of Lima's electricity. South America has few large lakes. Many of the large permanent lakes are situated at relatively high elevations in the Andes. Among the largest are Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopó in Bolivia; Buenos Aires, Argentino and Nahuel Huapí lakes in Argentina; and Lake Valencia in Venezuela. Vegetation The vegetation zones of South America correspond closely with the climatic zones. The areas of wet tropical climate have a dense cover of rain forest, or selva. The largest forest area in the world, this rain forest covers much of equatorial South America, including the Brazilian coast and the lower slopes of the Andes, and contains tropical hardwoods, palms, tree ferns, bamboos, and lianas. Open forests and brushlands are found in the areas of winter drought chiefly on the Venezuelan coast, in northeastern Brazil, and on the Gran Chaco. Between these drier areas and the rain forest are zones of tall grass (savannas, or campos) and of scrub and grass (campos cerrados). Mixed (containing both deciduous and evergreen trees) and deciduous forests occur in southern Brazil and along the slopes of the Andes. In Brazil the forest grades, to the south, into areas of rolling prairie interrupted by wooded hills. The Gran Chaco is characterized by grassy plains and open thorn scrub forest. The flat Pampas of east central Argentina is the largest midlatitude grassland of South America. To the south a zone of scrub steppe (monte) marks the transition to the low brush and bunch grass that cover the drier and cooler Patagonia region. Along the Pacific coast, the vegetation grades northward from forest to open woodland, to shrubs and grass in central Chile, and eventually to the scrub and desert vegetation that prevails into northern Peru and up to the mountain flanks. Animals South America, Central America, the lowlands of Mexico, and the West Indies may be classified as a single zoogeographic region usually called the Neotropical Region. Fauna is characterized by variety and a singular lack of affinity with the fauna of other continents, including North America north of the Mexican Plateau. Found throughout are families of mammals absolutely confined to the region, including two unique species of monkey, bloodsucking bats, and many unusual rodents. The region has only one kind of bear, the spectacled bear; no horses or related animals, aside from one species of tapir; and no ruminants, except lamoids (members of the camel family), which include alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. Also characteristic of the continent are jaguar, peccary, giant anteater, and coati. Birds display still greater isolation and singularity. About 23 families and about 600 genera of exclusively Neotropical birds occur, as well as the greater part of other important families, such as those of the hummingbirds (500 species), tanagers, and macaws, together with a great variety of sea fowl. The largest birds include the rhea, condor, and flamingo. Reptiles include boas and anacondas; iguanas, caimans, and crocodiles are found in many areas. Freshwater fish are varied and abundant. Regional exclusiveness also characterizes insects and other invertebrates. On the whole, South American fauna is more local and distinct than that of any continent other than Australia; probably more than four-fifths of its species are restricted to its zoogeographic boundaries. The Galápagos Islands are the habitat of reptiles and birds that are unknown elsewhere, including the Galápagos giant tortoise, Darwin's finches, and the Galápagos penguin. Mineral Resources South America has diverse mineral resources, many of which have not been extensively exploited. Mineral deposits are widely distributed, but certain areas of the continent are particularly renowned for their wealth. In the Andes placer gold has been worked in various areas since before the colonial era. The mountains between central Peru and southern Bolivia produced silver and mercury in the colonial era, and such industrial minerals as copper, tin, lead, and zinc today. Copper is worked at large deposits in northern and central Chile and in central and southern Peru. A highly mineralized area containing bauxite, iron ore, and gold lies between Ciudad Bolívar and northern Suriname, near the northern margin of the Guiana Highlands. In east central Brazil rich gold and diamond strikes occurred in the colonial era, some of these mines are still producing. Although South America is a major producer of rare metals, the large reserves of high-grade iron ore and smaller reserves of bauxite are more important to the emerging industrial power of the continent. South America is lacking in large coal reserves. Coal is found in scattered and relatively small deposits in the Andes and in southern Brazil. Coal has been an important fuel for industry and transportation primarily in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. Petroleum, however, is widely distributed. Most of the continent's reserves of petroleum and natural gas lie in structural basins located mostly along the eastern margins of and in the Andes, from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego. The largest known fields are in the Lake Maracaibo area of Venezuela. Other deposits occur in northern Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, south of the Andes in eastern and central Venezuela, and just east of the mountains in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. Agriculture Most crop and livestock production in South America is for home consumption and domestic markets. Nevertheless, revenues from agricultural exports are very important in many South American countries. The processing, internal marketing, and exporting of agricultural products account for a substantial part of commercial and manufacturing activity. Although agriculture, together with hunting, fishing, and forestry, accounts for about 12 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) within the continent, it accounts for more than 30 percent of the labor force in Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Ecuador, between 20 percent and 30 percent in Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana, and less than 20 percent in Suriname, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, and French Guiana. The most intensive forms of commercial agriculture are concentrated near cities. Perishables, such as vegetables, fruits, and dairy items, are the principal products here. The production of such staples as root crops, beans, and corn is more dispersed. In many areas these crops are raised by subsistence farmers under unfavorable climatic or soil conditions. Wheat and rice tend to be produced wherever conditions are most suitable. The nonexport beef-cattle industry is dispersed widely; the raising of beef cattle for export is of particular importance in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Colombia. Export-oriented agriculture is pursued in the tropical areas and midlatitudes, where arable land and access to ports are optimal. Among the tropical crops, coffee is the most important. It is produced in the highlands, chiefly in southeastern Brazil and in west central Colombia. Cacao is important in eastern Brazil and west central Ecuador. Bananas and sugarcane are produced throughout the Tropics, mostly for domestic markets. Bananas are grown for export in Colombia and western Ecuador; sugar is produced for export in coastal Peru, Guyana, and Suriname. Cotton has been produced for export for many decades in coastal Peru. Cotton and sugarcane are also raised (both for export and domestic markets) in northeastern and southeastern Brazil. In southeastern Brazil soybeans have, since the 1970s, become an important export crop. Soybeans are less important in Argentina, where fertile prairie soils have long supported grain and livestock industries of worldwide importance. Argentine wheat, corn, linseed, beef, mutton, hides, and wool are important items of international trade. Uruguay has a long-standing export trade dominated by wool and hides. Forestry and Fishing Although the continent is 50 percent forested and is surrounded by seas rich in marine life, the forestry and fishing industries in most South American nations are small and oriented toward domestic markets. Some tropical hardwoods and softwoods are exported, however, much of the wood coming from the Amazon Basin, where large tracts of forest are being cleared for conversion into range and cropland. Also exported is pine lumber from southern Brazil and south central Chile, together with some pulpwood. Significant areas of commercial forest have been planted in Chile and Brazil. The widespread planting of eucalyptus trees for firewood, for timbering, and for use in rough construction has historically been important. South America's most important commercial fisheries are the Pacific coastal waters. Large amounts of anchovies for fish meal are caught off the Peruvian and Chilean coasts, though overfishing has depleted recent harvests. Tuna are taken off the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coasts. Crustaceans are an important catch in Chilean, Brazilian, and Guianese waters. Mining Most mining for export is on a large scale. The long history of foreign corporate control of South American mining operations is waning because of national political pressures. Petroleum, copper, bauxite, and iron ore are the principal commodities in value and volume, but mineral exports are greatly diversified. South America is an important world producer of lead, zinc, manganese, and tin. Although all South American countries have some mineral production, Venezuela's oil and gas account for more than half the total value of the continent's output. Mineral production is of great importance to several national economies. Venezuela's exports are dominated by crude and refined petroleum, and derivatives; while the dependence on mineral exports is somewhat less in Suriname, Bolivia, and Chile. Peru and, in recent years, Ecuador, have relied heavily on the sale of minerals. Such exports generate government revenue, but mining contributes little to continental GDP and employment. Nevertheless, mineral commodities are important to the continent's growing industrial diversification.