An advantageous physiographic location, geological and relief aspects, prolific climate and a dense network of rivers made dependent on extreme richness of Ukrainian wildlife. On flat terrain the change of natural zones and flora and fauna of Ukraine from north to south is clearly visible: wood land- forest-steppe land-steppe zone.
Flora of Ukraine involves nearly 30 thousands of species, including 4,5 thousands of vascular plants, more than 800 varieties of bryophytes, 4 thousands of algae, 1000 types of lichens and over 1,5 thousand of fungi. Live vegetation of Ukraine occupies 19 million hectares or 14,3% of the whole territory.
Fauna of Ukraine is presented by more than 45 thousands of animal species, including 1,2 thousands of protozoaires, over 1, 4 thousands of worms, more than 39 thousands of arthropods, 270 species of fish, 344 varieties of birds and 108 types of mammals.
In the course of human industrial activity, flora of Ukraine underwent significant changes: the wooden area in the forest-steppe zone reduced fivefold and the area of valuable oak and beech forests decreased by 25% in XVI-XIX centuries. In the XX cen. the great deal of forests and plants in Ukraine were cut down completely during the recovery of the national economy after the World War II.
Today the composition of timber species in flora of Ukraine is changing under the influence of human economic activities too. Plantations with fine woods (oak, beech) are increasing, while plantations with less valuable tree species are declining. Approximately a half of the total wood volume in Ukraine accounts for conifers – the red forests and fir trees. Ukrainian flora is one of the richest in the world since there are more than 250 species of medical plants, 150 of which are common in the Carpathian National nature park.
The south part of Ukraine is the steppe zone. The surface of forestless territories of flora of Ukraine is lowland with hills, ravines and small flat-bottom valleys. Since the steppe climate is arid, vegetation of Ukraine in this region is presented by herbage plants. In spring irises, hyacinths, crocuses, adonis, tulips, peonies, and poppies grow in steppe areas. In summertime there are sagebrush, Volga fescue and feather grass. In the midsummer due to high heat (near 40° above zero) the majority of plants in Ukraine steppe dry out.
Forests occupy the north of Ukraine, these territories are also known as Ukrainian Polesye. This area is full of rivers, lakes and bogs. Plants in Ukraine forests grow in storeys. Trees like common pine, oak, horn-beech, birch, linden, aspen, maple and alder form the top storey. The middle storey is called underwood and formed by bushes: blackberry, briar, barberry, raspberry, and hazel-wood. The lower storey is presented by herbaceous plants and mushrooms: tutsan, nosebleed, valerian, chamomile, firetop.
Images of Ukrainian flora are a significant feature of the national folklore. Oak is a symbol of strength and longevity, pine symbolizes juice of life, willow is believed to bring joy and happiness, sunflower, Ukrainian national flower is a sign of the Sun, life, warmth, wealth and prosperity.
Carpathian Park is the first national nature park in Ukraine. It was established in Ivano-Frankivsk, the western region of Ukraine, in 3 June, 1980. The total area is 50303 ha. The overall amount of plant species is 1105, 78 of which are listed in the Red Book of Ukraine. Over 185 species of Ukrainian fauna live on the territory of the Park, 32 of them are in the Red Book too.
The Red Forest (also Chernobyl Woods) is the infamous forest, the land area of 10 km² sited adjacent to the Chernobyl NPP. The trees took upon themselves the biggest part of the radioactive dust emission during the 1986 atom catastrophe. The heavy rate of absorbed radiation led to death of many trees and representatives of Ukrainian fauna. Those, which survived, were discolored to brown. At nights, the dead trees and animals in Ukraine were radiant. At the moment, Ukrainian wildlife in the forest is naturally recovering.
Fauna of Ukraine is noted for a varied species composition and made up of about 45 thousands of animal varieties; many of animals in Ukraine are the rarest relict representatives.
Animals in Ukraine forest areas are as following: elk, roe deer, red deer, squirrel, fox, wolf, brown bear and trots. As for birds they are: blackcock, hazel hen, wood grouse, starling, tomtit, thrush, and stork.
Fauna of Ukraine steppe zone is presented by ground squirrel, hamster, jerboa, field mouse, marmot, nutria, mink, black fox and muskrat, hare. The birds are: skylark, quail, rosy pastor, steppe eagle.
Hunting animals are featured representatives of Ukrainian wildlife. Among them are: hoofed mammals, fir animals and wild fowl.
Ukrainian fauna and vegetation of Ukraine are especially beautiful and multiple on the Azov-Black Sea coast in the river deltas. There are lots of bird species: duck, heron, pelican, gull, and gannet. Fish varieties are sturgeon, mackerel, scad, mullet, herring, and pigfish. The lakes and rivers are full of perch, bream, pike-perch, carp and even trout (in the Carpathian rivers).
The Red book of Ukraine is an official document, which includes an annotated list of the rarest and endangered species of Ukrainian fauna and flora within the boundaries of Ukraine, its coastal shelf and the sea economic zone. The book contains data on reasons why animals and plants in Ukraine get on the verge of extinction and measures to prevent their dying out. The first Red Book devoted to Ukrainian flora and fauna appeared in 1980. The release described 85 endangered species.
For today, 826 species of plants are in the Red Book of Ukraine: 611 breeds of vascular plants, 46 types of bryophytes, 60 varieties of algae, 52 species of lichens, and 57 species of fungi.
Representatives of Ukrainian fauna are enumerated in the Red Book as well. 542 species of animals in Ukraine are on the point of dying out: 2 types of hydroids, 11 species of round and segmented worms, 31 varieties of crustaceans, 2 kinds of arachnids, 226 species of insects, 68 species of mammals, 87 varieties of birds, 69 species of fish.
Efforts to preserve Ukrainian wildlife are aimed at protection of 33 Ramsar lands, which have the International importance, biosphere reserves and national parks. In order to protect Ukrainian flora, the government adopted the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. The low presupposes preservation of habitats of animals and plants in Ukraine, conditions of their breeding and migration routes when performing different works.
Serious measures are taken to protect animals and vegetation of Ukraine, such as: