The Republic of Moldova lies in the central part of Europe in the northeastern Balkans. Moldova occupies an area of 33,843.5 km2.
The capital of Moldova is Chisinau. On the North, East and South Moldova is surrounded by Ukraine, and on the West it is separated from Romania by the Prut River.
The total length of the national boundaries is 1,389 km, including 939 km with Ukraine and 450 km with Romania. The most northerly point is the village of Naslavcea (48º21´ N 27º35´ E), while the most southerly point, Giurgiulesti (45º 28´ N 28º 12´ E), which is the only settlement on the bank of the Danube. The most westerly point is the village of Criva (48º16´ N 26º30´ E) and the most easterly point is the village of Palanca (46º 25´ N 30º 05´ E).
The Republic of Moldova belongs to the group of countries located in the Black Sea Basin. It maintains close mutually advantageous commercial ties with these countries as well as the countries located in the Danube Basin. The southern border of the country extends almost as far as the Black Sea, which can be accessed through the Nistru Liman and the Danube River.
The physical and geographical position of the Republic of Moldova has determined the specific features of its natural conditions.
The relief of the country represents a hilly plain sloping from the northwest to the southeast and having an average elevation of around 147 m above the sea level. The central part is occupied by Codrii woods, the most elevated topographical region with the maximum altitude of 429.5 m at Hill Balanesti, Nisporeni Raion (district) and a terrain strongly fragmented by valleys and dales. Erosion, land-sliding and recent tectonic upward movements have led to the formation of hartops (Romanian: valleys between hills), which represent amphitheaters with open ends facing river valleys. Many rural settlements are located in such landforms. The picturesque landscape of Codrii, which resembles a piedmont region, was named Basarabian Switzerland by Vasily Dokuchayev, a Russian geomorphologist and soil scientist. The terrain of the southwest of the country and the region along the lower course of the Nistru River represents a less fragmented plain.
The mineral resources of the Republic of Moldova are mainly represented by sedimentary rocks, such as limestone, chalk, gypsum, sand, sandstone, bentonite, tripoli, and diatomite, which can be used in construction, cement and glass production, food processing, chemical and metallurgical industries etc. Among other nonmetallic minerals that have been identified on the territory of the Republic of Moldova are graphite, phosphorite, zeolite, fluorite, barite, iodine and bromine as well as several industrial metals such as iron, lead, zinc and copper. Moldova has small deposits of lignite, crude oil and natural gas.
The climate of the Republic of Moldova is moderately continental. It is characterized by a lengthy frost-free period, short mild winters, lengthy hot summers, modest precipitation, and long dry periods in the south. The average annual temperature increases southward from around 8-9°C in the north to around 10-11°C in the south. The average annual precipitation varies between 600-650 mm in the north and the center and 500-550 mm in the south and the southeast.
The hydrographic network includes more than 3,000 rivers and rivulets, of which 10 exceed a length of 100 km. The main rivers are the Nistru (1,352 km, including 657 km within the borders of the country), the Prut (976 km, including 695 km within the borders of the country), the Raut (286 km), the Cogalnic (243 km, including 125 km within the borders of the country), the Bic (155 km), and the Botna (152 km). Moldova has about 60 natural lakes and 3,000 reservoirs. The largest Moldovan lakes are Beleu, Dracele, Rotunda, Fontan, Bic and Rosu, each with a water surface area exceeding 1 km2. The largest reservoirs in the country, each with a water capacity exceeding 30 million m3, are Costesti-Stanca, Dubasari, Cuciurgan, Taraclia, and Ghidighici.
There are about 2,200 natural water springs in Moldova. Around 20 deposits of mineral waters with more than 200 water springs have been identified and explored. The most valuable are those mineral waters which contain such curative components as sulfides, iodine, bromine, boron and radon. In terms of their therapeutic values, Moldovan mineral waters are analogous to such world-known mineral waters as Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, Borjomi in Georgia and Yessentuki-17 in the Northern Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation.
The soil cover of Moldova is fertile and various consisting of more than 745 varieties. Chernozem (Russian: black earth) occupies around three-fourth of the land area of the country. Brown and gray forest soils cover around 11% of the country’s land area. Floodplain, or alluvial, meadow soils occupy around 12% of the land area of Moldova.
The flora of the Republic of Moldova is rich and includes more than 5.5 thousand species of wild-growing plants. The rich natural botanical diversity of the Republic of Moldova is strongly influenced by its geographic position and the characteristics of its topography and climate. At the landscape level, the territory of the Republic of Moldova is situated within three natural zones – forest, forest-steppe and steppe. Forests occupy around 11% of Moldovan territory. Broad-leaved forests typical for Central Europe predominate. The largest forest tracts represented by the forest reservations Codrii Moldovei and Plaiul Fagului are located in the center of the country. The forest ecosystems of the country contain 45 native species of trees, 81 native species of shrubs and 3 native species of woody vines. Among the commonest native species of woody plants growing in our forests are the English oak (Quercus robur), durmast oak (Quercus petraea), pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Russian elm (Ulmus laevis), sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), little-leaved linden (Tilia cordata), European white birch (Betula pendula), and the European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
The fauna of the Republic of Moldova is relatively rich and diverse. More than 15.5 thousand species of animals exist in the Republic of Moldova including 461 species of vertebrates and more than 15,000 species of invertebrates. The vertebrates are represented by 70 species of mammals, 281 species of birds, 14 species of reptiles, 14 species of amphibians and 82 species of fish. The commonest native species of mammals are the long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), serotine (Eptesicus serotinus), common hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), European mole (Talpa europaea), common shrew (Sorex araneus), Eurasian noctule (Nyctalus noctula), Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), common hare (Lepus europaeus), European suslik (Citellus citellus), spotted suslik (Citellus suslicus), house mouse (Mus musculus), Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), common wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), yellow-necked field mouse (Apodemus flavicollis), red-backed vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), common field vole (Microtus arvalis), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), Eurasian badger (Meles meles), stone marten (Martes foina), European polecat (Mustela putorius), and the least weasel (Mustela nivalis).
There are 5 scientific reservations in the country with a total area of around 19.4 thousand ha. Two forest reservations are located in central Moldova – the Codrii Reservation and the Plaiul Fagului Reservation. Two other reservations are located on the Prut floodplain – the Prutul de Jos reservation and the Padurea Domneasca Reservation. The fifth scientific reservation – the Iagorlac Reservation – serves for the protection and study of the unique aquatic ecosystem of the Nistru River.