According to 800zipcodes, the main feature of the human geography of Belgium is the coexistence on its territory of the two ethnic-linguistic communities of Flemings and Walloons. Their discrimination originated in Roman times (1st century AD), when Frankish populations, of Germanic origin, occupied the part of the territory located N of the Scheldt, forcing the Celts and Gauls, settled on the territory, to retire to the southernmost areas. In the area occupied by the Franks Since then, the ancestor language of modern Flemish has spread, while the development of today’s French language continued among the Gallic populations.
Located between the Ardennes plateau and the North Sea, Belgium constitutes a portion of the northern belt of central Europe formed by ancient massifs – variously dismembered remnant of the Paleozoic folds – which slopes down to the coastal lowland with large expanses of more recent alluvial deposits. The country is therefore divisible, from the morphological point of view, into three distinct sections: to the S Upper Belgium, corresponding to the plateau of the Ardennes, extreme offshoot of the Renano Schistoso Massif; in the center Middle Belgium, which marks the transition from the reliefs to the plain and which corresponds to the historical region of Brabant; to N the Lower Belgium, that is the coastal plain of the Flanders. The Ardennes are an undulating region (highest elevation the Botrange, 694 m, in the Hautes Fagnes = Hohes Venn), which was almost entirely leveled by erosion and later affected by the Cenozoic rejuvenation of the Renano Schistoso Massif, during which furrows often originated deep where rivers flow. In several points the paleozoic formations of the Cambrian, the Devonian and the Carboniferous emerge; the latter form a continuous strip on the northern hills, hosting the coal deposits which represent the greatest wealth of Belgium. At the edge of the plateau, strips of Mesozoic rocks appear, limestone and marly, evidence of repeated marine submersions. N of the Sambre- Meuse sulcus the reliefs slope down with a series of terraces, attesting to the phases of marine regression towards the plain, formed by Cenozoic sandstones and clays; above there are Pleistocene deposits, partly aeolian, strongly limonitized. Towards the sea, Quaternary floods prevail, interrupted by low sandy hills, which along the coast take on a continuous character, with showy dune formations, a typical landscape of the Flanders coast. The coastal plain, overlooking the North Sea for 65 km, was formerly marshy and difficult to use, but was subsequently subjected to extensive reclamation interventions, drained and rationalized in its water conformation. In some areas, land located below sea level has been recovered for agricultural use through the polder system, as is more widespread in the neighboring Netherlands.
Given the regular and abundant rains, Belgium’s waterways have a rather constant regime and, thanks to the country’s flat character, are widely navigable. The hydro-morphological conditions have also facilitated the creation of a highly developed network of canals that connect the rivers to each other and to the coast. The two largest rivers in the country are the Meuse and the Scheldt. However, neither one nor the other entirely run their course in Belgian territory: the first flows mainly in the SN direction, along the outermost edge of the plateau; the second, with the tributary Lys, crosses the plain of Flanders.
In Belgium, the area of land not used for grazing or cultivation is very extensive and amounts to approx. 32% of the total, with 22.1% of the territory covered by forests, therefore some regions maintain very marked naturalistic characteristics. In the Ardennes area there are still uncontaminated places, covered by temperate deciduous forests (oak, oak, beech) and conifers, associated with the mildness and rainfall of the Atlantic climate, or windy and heather-covered moors, furrowed by rivers and rich in flora and fauna. In the northernmost regions, of essentially flat conformation, the forest of oaks and elms prevails. The wildlife is made up of foxes, badgers, squirrels and, among the larger mammals, fallow deer and wild boar. The environmental problems of Belgium are common to those of other industrialized areas of Europe, and are linked to industrial and waste discharges that cause pollution of water and land, as well as fuel the phenomenon of acid rain. In Belgium only 3.1% of the territory is occupied by parks or nature reserves. The main ones are: the De Blankaart nature reserve, to W, populated by ducks and gray herons and covered with marsh reeds and willows; the De Zegge nature reserve, to the E, characterized by a peat bog (fagne, in French) and various families of aquatic plants; the extensive Hautes Fagnes Natural Park, in which the beech, oak and fir forest is home to a fauna consisting of roe deer, wild boars and other wild mammals, as well as birds such as woodpeckers and owls.