Although 95 percent of the country is flat, Ukraine has two famous mountain ranges: The chain of Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains rises in the west, while in the extreme south of the country the range of the Crimean Mountains is prominent.
The Ukrainian, or Eastern, Carpathians are part of the great Alpine-Carpathian mountain range. These are young mountains of medial height varying from 1200 to 1600 m, formed during the epoch of Alpine folding, and comprised of several parallel ridges extending from the northwest to the southeast for 270 km. The Mountain ridges of the east are called the Outer Carpathians. The highest area of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains is the Chornohora massif that has several alps of over 2000 m high; it is here that the highest peak of Ukraine, the Hoverla Mountain 2 061 m high, is located.
The Carpathian mountain system is remarkable due to its unique Central Europe ancestral forest that still flourishes. As for the mountains themselves, they are “soft”, high pasturelands covered with alpine meadows without rocky ledges. At close to 2000 meters, one may encounter pine tree growing on the Pip Ivan Mountain, 54 meters high larch near Rakhov, the highest Carpathian tree, as well as the smallest one, an obtusifolious willow (shorter than 15 cm) on the sides of Blyznytsia mountain. In spring, not far from Khust one may observe the Narcissi valley in bloom. Many thousand years ago, karstic caves and rock-salt deposits have formed in the mountain ranges; the salt lakes located over the salt deposits are very much similar in their healing power to the one of the Dead Sea in Israel.
Having acquired the present day shape during the epoch of Alpine folding, the Crimean Mountains occupy the farthest south of the Crimean peninsula and are part of the Crimean Caucasian mountain range. They extend from west to east for 180 km with three ridges standing out: the Central ridge with heights of from 1200 to 1500 m, Inner ridge of 400 to 600 m high, and Outer ridge going up from 250 to 350 m. The Central ridge is the highest of the Crimean Mountains and represents a chain of woodless massifs called yails. The highest point of the Crimean Mountains, the Roman-Kosh Mountain 1 545 m, is located on the Babuhan-Yail. The southern slopes of the Central ridge end with the Southern Coast of Crimea.
The Black Sea area is 422 000 sq. kilometers. The Kerch Strait links it with the Sea of Azov and the Bosporus with the Sea of Marmara. The length of the Black Sea coastline within Ukraine is over 1500 km. with the beaches predominantly sloping (except in the region of the Crimean Mountains). In the northeastern part of the coast, numerous estuaries and lakes had formed separated from the sea by narrow sandy strips. The Black Sea is over 2000 meters deep in the center, but within the zone adjoining Ukraine the depth of 100 to 120 meters prevails. Considerable deepth is found only in the region of the Southern Coast of Crimea. Water temperature in the northwestern part of the Sea fluctuates in winter within the range of from 0 to 8? С ( 32? F to 46.4?F) . The surface water temperature in summer reaches 23? to 25? С (73,4? F to 77? F).
The salinity of water is from 13% to 14% in the northwestern part of the Sea, reaching 16% near the Southern Coast of Crimea. At the depth of 150 to 200 m water is saturated with hydrogen sulphide; hence, organic life is concentrated predominantly in the upper layers.
The area of the Sea of Azov is 39 thousand sq. kilometers. Its beaches are low-lying, straight, and characterized by tongues of sand (in Berdiansk, Obitochna, etc.). The biggest, Arbatska Strelka, is 112 km long, separating the Sivash Sea, the system of small bays with mineralized water. With the maximum depth of 15 m, the Sea of Azov freezes at its shores in winter. In summer, the surface water temperature reaches 25? or 30? С(77? F…86? F). On average, the salinity is from 10‰ to 11‰, with its maximum of 25‰ in the Sivash Sea.
Overall, there are more than 73 thousand rivers in Ukraine with over a hundred of them longer than 100 kilometers. The rivers of Ukraine predominantly belong to the basins of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov with the exception of Southern Buh and other left bank tributaries of Vistula that are part the Baltic Sea basin.
The Dnipro River is the third in length in Europe after the Volga and the Danube. It springs in the Valdai Hills in Russia, flows into Dnipro estuary on the Black Sea. It divides the territory of Ukraine from north to south into its right bank and left bank, covering almost half of the country with its basin. It is a horizontally flowing river with a wide flood bed. Its right bank steeplp rises up from 50 to 150 meters over the water level, while the left bank is low-lying and mildly sloping. The largest tributaries, Prypiat and Desna, are navigable.
The Danube River passes through the territory of Ukraine in its lower flow and pours into the Black Sea creating large delta of three branches. The River is the major trade water route that connects Ukraine with many countries of Europe. The most important tributaries of the Danube in Ukraine are Tisa and Prut.
There are over 20 thousand water reservoirs in Ukraine. Three thousand of the number are lakes located predominantly in Polissia region, Coastal Black Sea lowland and steppe region of Crimea. The biggest fresh water lakes are the Yalpuh in the flooded area of Danube and Svitiazke in the Polissia region.
Lakes of the Coastal Black Sea lowland and of the steppe region of Crimea had formed mainly because of flooding of the river plains and gorges by the sea. Some of them are called estuaries (for instance, Dnister, Tylihulsk, Kuialnyk, and Molochny estuaries).
Flora And Fauna
Geographical location of Ukraine, especial geological development, relief, climate, a great number of rivers stipulated a numerous varieties of plant and wild life.
The plant life of Ukraine numbers close to 30,000 species, over four hundred of which are registered on the endangered-species list. Natural vegetation covers over 19 million hectares or close to one third of the country’s territory.
Most of the endemic, rare or declining species are located in the Crimean and Carpathian mountains. Almost half of the endemic and 30 percent of the rare and declining plants are concentrated there.
Affected by the human commercial activity, the plant life of Ukraine has undergone considerable change: during the 16th to 19 centuries forest in the forest-steppe zone has been reduced more than five times, while the area with the most valuable oak and beech shrunk by quarter in the 19th century alone. Great damage had been inflicted to forests after the WWII during the reconstruction of the national economy.
As of today, fourteen percent of the Ukrainian territory is covered by forests, which composition of wood species is changing being influenced by the commercial activity. Plantations of fine wood are being expanded while that of the less valuable forest trees (hornbeam and aspen) reduced. Approximately half of the wood stock of Ukraine is conifers: pine, spruce and silver fir.
The forests of Ukraine are rich in berries, mushrooms, fruits of wild growing plants and medicinal plants, which 250 species are used in Ukraine for medical purposes including 150 in medical science. Regions most abundant with medicinal plants are Polissia (marshy woodlands), forest-steppe zone, and Carpathians.
The portrayal of plants is an important element of Ukrainian folk symbolism. In the national tradition symbolic meaning and representation attributed to trees and plants is very similar to that of the all European. Thus, an oak personifies power and endurance, a pine incarnates vital energy and prolificacy, a willow is believed to be a “fore tree” of life and is associated with the alchemy of spring. The guelder rose incarnating sun, fire, perpetuity of life, maiden beauty and eternal love is the traditional symbol of Ukraine.
The wildlife of Ukraine is distinguished by a large variety of species with almost 45 thousand kinds of animals. There are many unique natural localities in Ukraine where one can encounter rare surviving animals.
Elk, roe deer, wild boar, red deer, squirrel are inhabitants of forest zone; foxes and wolves are numerous, one may meet brown bears and lynx there. Of the avifauna, there is a large number of black cock, hazel grouse, wood grouse, starling, blue titmouse, cranes. The steppe zone is inhabited with ground squirrel, hamster, jerboa, field mouse, and marmot; of birds, there are skylark, quail, pink starling, steppe eagle, and others.
Some fur animals (nutria, mink, silvery-black fox, muskrat) were brought in from afar, and they acclimatized themselves well to the environment.
Wildlife of the coast region of the Back Sea and the Sea of Azov is highly varied; birds are especially numerous: martins, pochards, wild ducks, herons, bittern, pelicans, sea gulls, cormorants, etc. In the above seas, there is sturgeon, mackerel, bullhead, and so on. Rivers, lakes and manmade reservoirs are inhabited with perch, bream, zander, pike, crucian carp, sazan; and trout - in the Carpathians rivers.
The South Coast of Crimea and the mountaineous region of peninsula with climatic conditions similar to the Mediterranean, harbor such creatures as Crimean and rock lizards, leopard snake, southern nightingale, black vulture, red deer, and mouflon.
Hoofed, fir and bird-game are also widespread on the territory of Ukraine. In the game-preserves that may be found in practically all the regions of Ukraine, hunting is arranged for elk, wild boar, hare, fox, wild duck and goose, etc.
Eleven national nature parks, 4 biosphere preserves, 16 nature reserves, numerous dendrological parks are organized in Ukraine; there are also monument sites of landscape architecture there. Among them the most famous are Askania-Nova (late 19th century, Kherson oblast, Shatsky national nature park (Volyn oblast), dendrological parks: Spfiyivka (Cherkassy oblast), Oleksandria (Kyiv oblast), and Trostianetsky (Chernihiv oblast), as well as natural monuments: Dovbush Rocks in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv oblasts, Tomb of Stone in Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts, the Great Canyon in Crimea