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Moldova, Land and Resources

fertile type of soil, smallest republic, chernozem, ermines, weasel family

Moldova is a landlocked country that covers an area of about 33,700 sq km (about 13,000 sq mi). It was the second smallest republic of the former USSR, after Armenia. The terrain of Moldova is primarily a hilly plain interspersed with deep river valleys. The average elevation is 147 m (482 ft) above sea level. The Kodry Hills occupy the central portion of Moldova, rising to a maximum elevation of about 430 m (about 1,410 ft) at Mount Balanesti.

Moldova contains an extensive river system; more than 3,000 rivers and streams traverse the country. The two largest rivers are the Dniester and the Prut, both of which rise in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, to the north of Moldova. The Dniester, the larger of the two rivers, flows through the eastern portion of Moldova in a southeasterly direction. It forms part of the country’s border with Ukraine in the northeast, cuts through Moldova’s interior, and meets the Ukrainian border again in the southeast, where it reenters Ukraine and then empties into the Black Sea. The Prut, a major tributary of the Danube River, forms Moldova’s entire western border with Romania. At the extreme southern tip of Moldova, the Prut joins the Danube, which flows eastward and empties into the Black Sea. Other major rivers include the Yalpug, the Byk, and the Reut.

The hills in the central portion of Moldova are densely forested, mostly with oak and hornbeam trees. Linden, maple, beech, and wild fruit trees also grow in Moldova. Cultivated crops have largely replaced the natural grass cover of the plains, or steppes, in northern and southern Moldova. Grassy salt marshes are common in some river valleys.

A wide variety of wildlife inhabits Moldova, although the population of certain animals, such as wolves, has declined dramatically during the last century. Roe deer, which are native to the region, are abundant. The spotted deer, which was introduced to Moldova, is also well established. Members of the weasel family, including badgers, martens, ermines, and polecats, are common. Other mammals include wild boars, foxes, and hares. Common birds include larks, jays, and blackbirds. Some species, such as the wild goose, are migratory.

Natural resources in Moldova include deposits of lignite, phosphorite, and gypsum. Three-quarters of the country is covered in chernozem, an exceptionally fertile type of soil that is ideal for agriculture.

Moldova’s climate is continental, with conditions modified somewhat by the Black Sea. Winters are fairly mild, with average daily temperatures in January ranging from –5° to –3°C (23° to 27°F). Summers are quite warm, with average daily temperatures in July generally exceeding 20°C (68°F) and daily highs occasionally reaching 40°C (104°F). Precipitation is fairly light and irregular and occurs least in the south, where it averages 350 mm (14 in) per year. Precipitation is greatest in the higher elevation areas, where it can exceed 600 mm (20 in) per year. Moldova’s climate is conducive to agriculture, especially grape growing.

The environment of Moldova suffered extreme degradation during the Soviet period, when industrial and agricultural development proceeded without regard for environmental protection. Excessive use of pesticides resulted in heavily polluted topsoil, and industries lacked emission controls. The Moldovan government is now burdened with the Soviet legacy of ecological mismanagement. Environmental initiatives are administered by the State Department for Environmental Protection. High levels of pesticide and fertilizer use have been linked with elevated rates of disease and infant mortality. Soil contamination and groundwater pollution are associated problems.

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