Algeria lies on or on the borderline between two tectonic plates, the so-called African and Eurasian plates. The African plate, and thus also North Africa and Algeria, is pushing against the Eurasian plate in the course of the continental drift, which, according to geological knowledge and theories, will lead to the disappearance of the Mediterranean Sea in about 80 million years, which will be replaced by a mountain range.
For the present, this means that earthquakes can occur at any time. This has happened quite often in the last 50 years, with a total of around 4,500 fatalities.
The last major current earthquake occurred on August 1, 2014; its focus was about 15km northeast of Algiers.
Two mountain ranges, the Tell Atlas to the north and the Sahara Atlas to the south, cross Algeria in an east-west direction and rise to over 2300m. There are plateaus between the two mountain ranges, north of the Tell Atlas lies the fertile coastal region and south of the Sahara Atlas lies the Algerian deserts. The coastal region in the north is protected from Sahara winds by the Tell Atlas and Sahara Atlas, and in the north, cooler, fresher air masses are brought in from the Mediterranean Sea.
South of the Sahara Atlas are the sparsely populated desert areas, which in turn are very different: sandy deserts (Erg Oriental in the east, Erg Occidental in the west) and stone deserts with desert mountains. The Hoggar Mountains in the southeast reach over 3000m altitude. The desert mountains are of volcanic origin.
The rivers of Algeria originate in the Tell or Sahara Atlas and flow either north from the Tell Atlas to the Mediterranean Sea or from the Sahara Atlas south towards the Sahara. The Chelif or Chlef (namesake of the city of the same name between Algiers and Oran) has water all year round. Over a length of 725km it pours into the Mediterranean Sea at Mostaganem (near Oran) and carries up to 1500 cbm of water per second (Rhine: up to 12,000 cbm). Some smaller rivers such as the Soummam or the Medjerda also flow from the Tell Atlas north into the Mediterranean and improve the agricultural utilization of the fertile soils in northern Algeria.
The currents flowing south towards the Sahara are not permanent. During heavy rains they can become torrential rivers, so-called wadis or oueds, and cause great damage and accidents. Further south, the water inflows form only temporary flat salt lakes that dry out in summer, so-called chott-ech-chergui. On the other hand, some of the water seeps away and flows into large groundwater stocks, which are considered to be the largest and most extensive in the world. Accordingly, there is a hypothetical groundwater reservoir the size of the three countries Algeria, Libya and Chad with a water depth of 75m. The exact quantitative-cartographic recording and the possible exploitation and utilization of freshwater reserves, as has already been partially realized in Libya, however, still raise many questions (technology, ecology, financing).
According to areacodesexplorer, in the south of Algeria, oases have formed around natural wells; these wells are fed from the freshwater reserve in the groundwater. In addition, the water storage and distribution of the surface precipitation is optimized, as in Ghardaia, Djanet or Tamanrasset, which extend over the entire huge Sahara area. Traditional irrigation systems (Foggara) partially enable the groundwater to be tapped.
Hot thermal baths in north-east Algeria are already known from Roman times; these are of volcanic origin.
80% of the land is very sparsely or not at all overgrown. The forests should during the civil war – have even increased slightly in the 90 years from 2 to about 3% – for lack of clearance and use; however, the total area is not known. The forest areas mainly in the Kabylia, for example in the area of Constantine, consist of cedars and cork oaks.
The highlands of the Schotts contain steppe-like vegetation, for example with half grass, the south (Sahara, Hoggar high plateau) is largely without vegetation.
The best known of the wild animals is the Algerian desert fox Fennec, a carnivorous night hunter. In addition, it specifies baboons reminiscent Barbary apes, which are also not far encountered Algiers and get used very to humans. In the deserts, gerbils and scorpions find adapted living conditions.
Algeria is generally very rich in raw materials, in particular it has large deposits of crude oil and natural gas. Together with Libya and Nigeria, it plays in the “first league” of oil and gas exporting countries and, as a member of this group of three, has access to large natural resources. The country also has stocks of iron, copper, lead and zinc ores as well as mercury and phosphate, which are mined at the respective locations.