Where Are The Pyrenees Mountains?

Rolling green pastures on the lower slopes of the French Pyrenees.

5. Description

The Pyrenees Mountain Range acts as a barrier between Spain and France. It also divides the rest of Europe from the Iberian Peninsula. The Pyrenees' length and breadth of more than 300 miles crosses inland from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay. Pico de Aneto is its highest mountain peak at 11,168 feet in elevation. The French Pyrenees belongs to France while the Spanish Pyrenees belongs to Spain. However, in the middle of these two portions of the Pyrenees is one of the tiniest countries in the world, called Andorra, which is found sitting on its eastern side. Its capital city, Andorra la Vella, at 3,356 feet altitude is Europe's highest capital city.

4. Historical Role

During the 15th Century, independent monarchies existed in the Pyrenees region. On the Mediterranean side, two realms existed under the Crown of Aragon, namely being the Principality of Catalonia and Kingdom of Aragon. For a while, a short-lived smaller kingdom named the Kingdom of Navarre became the object of political pressure from these larger kingdoms. This event led to the division of Navaree into two unequal parts. The Basque region also played a part in the succeeding territorial disputes. In 1659, the Peace of the Pyrenees was signed between Spain and France to end the wars between the two nations over the possession of this region. The historic peace agreement was signed at the Isle of Pheasants located on the western end of the mountain range. The borders between the two countries were designated in 1659-1660, and remains as such still today.

3. Modern Significance

The French Pyrenees regions extends across parts of six French departements, while the Spanish side extends downwards across parts of six Spanish provinces. Languages commonly used in the Pyrenees are French, Aragonese, Spanish, Catalan, Aranese, and Basque. The 20th Century has brought protection and development alike to the Pyrenees as a result of agreements and cooperative policies between Spain and France. Tourism also helps the area's economy, bolstered by alpine skiing and mountaineering activities. Major international cycling events also cross the Pyrenees. Nonetheless, mining resources, hydroelectrical resources, steel mills, and paper mills are evidently lacking in investment in the region. The area does, however, have shoe, textile, and chemical factories, though lack these often find difficulties in procuring investments as well, and as a result some of these factories are in danger of shutting down.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

The Pyrenees Mountains are older than the French Alps. This whole mountain range was formed from an upwelling that started from the Lower Cretaceous Period and lasted into the Eocene Epoch. Its western side consists of granite points covered with limestone, while its eastern side is comprised by gneissose and granite. Its highest areas have waterfalls and high mountain passes with circles of cliffs. Its western side receives more snow and rain than its eastern side. Flora on the western side is more typical of that seen in Central Europe, while the eastern side has Mediterranean types of plants. Fauna in the Pyrenees varies from endangered brown bears, wolves, lynxes, and salamanders to Caucasus types of shrew and moles.

1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes

The Pyrenees border disputes that existed between France and Spain from the 15th to the 18th Centuries no longer exist today. However, two groups of people in the region have different views as to which country they belong, or if they need complete independence altogether. These, the Basques and the Catalans, have been clamoring and working for their independence for centuries now. The French Basques and French Catalans have not been so active in this issue as of late, as the majority of these see themselves as native Basques and native Catalans rather than as French. However, the Spanish Basques and the Spanish Catalans see a need for nationalism, and this began several centuries back. Also, the French Basques and the French Catalans live in smaller areas in France as compared to the more sizable areas that their Spanish counterparts occupy in Spain.


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