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Great Britain

Great Britain

Great Britain is a European island in the Atlantic Ocean located north-west of continental Europe. It has an extension of approximately 900 km in a north-south direction and has a maximum extension of approximately 460 km in an east-west direction; its minimum distance from the continent, from which it is separated by the English Channel, is 34 km at the Strait of Dover, which divides the island from France.
With an area of 229,850 km² it is the largest island in Europe and the ninth largest in the world, as well as the largest in the British archipelago which includes, in addition to the island of Ireland, the second largest of the group, also the Isle of Man and other smaller islands and archipelagos. Administratively, the island of Great Britain belongs to the United Kingdom and its territory is divided between three of its four constituent nations: Scotland in the northern part, England in the central-southern part and Wales, which overlooks the Irish Sea, in the central-western one.

Etymology –
The term “Great Britain” has an interesting etymology. It derives from the Latin term “Britannia”, which was the name with which the Romans indicated the island located in the north-west of Europe, which today mainly includes England, Scotland and Wales. The name “Britannia” probably derives from the ancient inhabitants of the island, known as the Britons or Britons, who were a Celtic group.
Over time the term evolved to become “Great Britain” in English, and later the adjective “Great” was added to distinguish it from the smaller island of Ireland. The addition of “Great” was made to differentiate the island of Great Britain from the island of Ireland and therefore refers to the larger island itself, not to the greatness of greatness in terms of size or prestige. Therefore, “Great Britain” refers to the island comprising England, Scotland and Wales.

Geographical Features –
Great Britain is located in the North Atlantic Ocean and is separated from the European continent by the English Channel to the south-east and the North Sea to the east. Ireland is located in the west.
Britain’s topography is very varied, with mountains, hills, plains and rugged coastlines. Major mountains include the Scottish Highlands, the Pennine Hills and the Welsh Mountains. The largest lowlands are found in the east and south-east of England, while the coasts are full of coves, cliffs and beaches.
Great Britain is crossed by numerous rivers, including the Thames, the Severn, the Tyne and the Clyde. There are no large lochs, but there are numerous Scottish lochs and lochs (such as Loch Ness). The largest lake in England is Lake Windermere in the Lake District.
Britain’s climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and varies greatly from north to south and west to east. Western regions tend to have milder winters and cooler summers than eastern regions. Precipitation is common across the country.
Great Britain includes numerous smaller islands off its coast. Some of the larger islands include the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Anglesey, the Isle of Man and the Hebrides.
This large island has a variety of natural resources, including coal, oil, natural gas, minerals, and agricultural land. However, many of these resources have been exploited over the centuries.
Britain is famous for its national parks, areas of natural beauty and protected landscapes. These include the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands, Snowdonia National Park and many others.
Britain is highly urbanised, with large metropolitan areas such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The majority of the British population lives in cities and towns.

Historical Notes –
Britain’s history is long and complex, dating back millennia.
It has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with evidence of human settlements dating back over 800,000 years. Stonehenge, a megalithic monument in southern England, is one of the most famous prehistoric sites.
The Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD. and ruled the region as a Roman province until 410 AD, when the Roman legions withdrew.
After the Roman withdrawal, the island was invaded by Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Norwegian tribes, leading to the creation of numerous Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
In the 9th and 10th centuries, the kingdom of Wessex unified much of England under a single ruler, King Alfred the Great.
In 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon king Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. This event led to a period of Norman rule in England.
In the 15th century, England was involved in a series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Roses, a struggle for the throne between the houses of Lancaster and York.
The Tudor dynasty, with monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, brought stability and prosperity to England. During the 16th and 17th centuries, England began to expand into a colonial empire.
In 1642, a civil war broke out in England between supporters of King Charles I and the parliamentarians. This war led to the execution of Charles I and the temporary establishment of the English Republic under Oliver Cromwell.
After the brief republic, the monarchy was restored with Charles II. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought William of Orange and Mary II to the throne and marked the beginning of a period of constitutional monarchy.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain became a major colonial power, with a vast empire that stretched across the globe.
Britain played a crucial role in the defeat of the Axis during the Second World War, with Winston Churchill’s famous speech.
After World War II, the British Empire began to break up, with many colonies gaining independence.
In 1973, Great Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC), which later became the European Union (EU). In 2020, Britain left the EU through the process known as “Brexit”.
These are just some of the major stages in the history of Great Britain. Its history is full of significant events, historic personalities and political and economic transformations that have shaped the country over the centuries.

Ecosystem –
Britain’s ecosystem is diverse and includes a range of natural habitats, from countryside to coastal areas, mountains to cities. Its geographical position, temperate climate and geological diversity have contributed to creating a great variety of ecosystems. Below are some of the most significant ecosystems found in Great Britain:
Britain is home to numerous areas of forest, including Sherwood Forest, the Forest of Dean and the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. These forests provide habitat for a wide range of species, including deer, red squirrels and various birds.
The British countryside is famous for its rolling landscapes, farmlands, pastures and small villages. These habitats support many bird species, such as the skylark, as well as mammals such as hares and foxes.
Britain’s coasts offer diverse habitats, including cliffs, beaches, mangroves and wetlands. Numerous sea birds, such as seagulls and puffins, live along the coasts, while in the marine waters there are fish, seals, and occasionally whales.
Mountainous areas such as the Scottish Highlands and the English Lake District offer alpine and subalpine habitats, with species such as grouse and ptarmigan.
Wetlands, such as the Norfolk Broads and Lake Windermere, are important habitats for waterbirds, amphibians and a wide range of aquatic flora.
British cities and towns provide habitats for a variety of species adapted to city life, including pigeons, gray squirrels and bats.
Britain boasts numerous national parks, including Snowdonia National Park, the Peak District and Exmoor National Park. These parks are important for nature conservation and offer many opportunities for hiking and nature enjoyment.

Flora –
The flora of Great Britain is very diverse and includes a wide range of native and introduced plants. Great Britain is made up of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each of which has its own distinct natural environment and flora. Here are some of the most common and significant plants found in Britain:
1. Oaks (Quercus robur): Oaks are deciduous trees common across Britain and provide shelter and food for many wildlife.
2. Pine (Pinus sylvestris): These coniferous trees are typical of the woodland areas of Scotland and provide valuable wood.
3. Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum): This plant is native to Asia but has become invasive in many parts of the UK.
4. Wild roses (Rosa spp.): Wild roses are common plants in lawns and along roadsides.
5. St. John’s Lily (Hypericum perforatum): This herbaceous plant is known for its bright yellow flowers and medicinal properties.
6. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus): These brightly colored flowers commonly grow in gardens and wild areas.
7. Thistle (Carduus spp.): Thistles are common in grasslands and help provide food for butterflies and bees.
8. Common Blueberry (Myosotis scorpioides): These blue flowers are often associated with streams and wetlands.
9. Broom (Cytisus scoparius): This yellow shrub flowers in spring and is a common feature of British landscapes.
10. Wild orchid (Orchis spp.): Britain is home to numerous species of wild orchid, each with unique flowers.
This is just a small selection of Britain’s rich flora. Plant diversity is influenced by factors such as climate, topography and the natural history of each region. Britain is also famous for its well-kept gardens and parks, which are home to a wide range of ornamental plants from around the world.

Fauna –
The fauna of Great Britain is characterized by a great variety of animal species due to the diversity of habitats present in the country, which include forests, fields, mountains, rivers and coasts. However, due to human influences and habitat modifications, some native species are endangered or declining.
Here are some of the best-known species found in British fauna:
1. Foxes (Vulpes vulpes): Foxes are omnivorous and are common throughout Great Britain. They are nocturnal and are often found in woodlands and rural areas.
2. Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): These majestic deer are found in many parts of Britain, especially in woodland areas.
3. Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris): The friendly red squirrels are common in British woodlands, although they are threatened by competition with introduced gray squirrels.
4. Badgers (Meles meles): Badgers are nocturnal, burrowing animals that live in underground burrows. They are widespread in Great Britain.
5. Hares (Lepus europaeus): Hares are widespread in the British countryside and are particularly common in rural regions.
6. Birds: Britain is home to a wide range of birds, including the robin, blackbird, great tit, green woodpecker and peregrine falcon. Skomer Island, Wales, is known for its puffin colonies.
7. Gray Seal (Halichoerus grypus): Gray seals are often spotted on British coasts, especially in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
8. Bats: Britain is home to numerous species of bats, such as the common bat and the horseshoe bat.
9. European Bison (Bison bonasus): This species was recently reintroduced to the Scottish Highlands as part of conservation efforts.
10. Otter (Lutra lutra): Otters have returned to populate British waterways after years of decline due to water pollution.
It should be noted that many species are protected by law in Britain, and conservation efforts are in place to protect biodiversity and natural habitats. British wildlife is varied and interesting, with many opportunities to spot wildlife in different natural settings.

Environmental Protection Actions –
Great Britain has a long history of commitments to environmental protection. First of all, it is important to note that Great Britain is made up of four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each of these nations has some autonomy in environmental policies. Below are some of Britain’s environmental protection actions:
1. Environmental laws and regulations: The UK has a strong legal framework for environmental protection. Environmental legislation covers a wide range of issues, including air and water pollution, waste management, nature conservation and the protection of biodiversity. The main law in this field is the “Environmental Protection Act” of 1990.
2. Greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets: Britain has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The UK Government has adopted policies and measures to reduce carbon emissions in the energy, transport and industry sectors.
3. Nature and biodiversity conservation: The UK is committed to conserving its rich diversity of habitats and species. Numerous protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, have been established to preserve biodiversity.
4. Renewable energy: The UK government actively promotes the use of renewable energy, such as wind, solar and hydropower, to reduce the energy sector’s environmental impact.
5. Waste Disposal: Waste management is an environmental priority, with an increasing focus on reducing, reusing and recycling waste.
6. Fiscal and financial incentives: The UK offers fiscal and financial incentives to encourage businesses and citizens to adopt more sustainable practices and invest in green technologies.
7. Public transport and sustainable mobility: British cities promote public transport, cycling and the creation of low-emission zones to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.
8. Environmental monitoring and reporting: The UK government collects data on the environment and publishes regular reports on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental indicators.
It is important to note that each of the UK’s constituent nations has some autonomy in its environmental policies, so there may be some variation in the details of the actions taken by each nation. However, overall, Britain is committed to protecting the environment and mitigating climate change through a range of policies and initiatives.

Guido Bissanti

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