Terrain shapes and bedrock
From the definitions of Digopaul, Chile consists of three
north-south regions, which extend through practically the
entire narrow country, namely the Andes mountain range
system to the east, the central valley and the coastal
mountains to the west.
The Chilean Andes, which form an effective
dividing line on the border with Argentina, include the
highest section of the Andean system, with heights of more
than 5,000 meters above sea level. in its northern part.
Several of the peaks are extinct volcanoes, such as
Llullaillaco, 6,723 m above sea level. and Ojos del Salado,
6,908 meters above sea level. To the south, the mountain
range decreases in height, but the peaks are covered by
glaciers. Most of the peaks there are extinguished or active
volcanoes, usually in conical form. Also in Patagonia there
are altitudes of 3 650 m above sea level, and the area is
divided into massive by a network of valleys and lakes.
The mountain range is mainly built up by younger Mesozoic
and Tertiary sediments that were converted, folded and
raised during the alpine mountain range formation. Through
volcanic activity, ryolites and dacites became included in
the mountain range, which also obtained rich deposits of
ores, e.g. of copper, silver, iron and manganese. Tertiary
collages also occur.
The central longitudinal valley, which is mostly
limited by fault lines, has at its bottom a blanket of
moraine, sometimes overlaid with glacifluvial and alluvial
material. At the far north, the 25-30 km wide area forms a
plateau of 600-1,200 m above sea level. rich deposits of
nitrate were found. The soil in the central part is also
mineral-containing and provides the basis for a flourishing
agriculture and dense settlement. At Puerto Montt at 42 °
south latitude, the longitudinal valley reaches the sea
level and is replaced by a large number of islands.
The coastal mountains run like a high ridge
between the long valley and the coast, but with peaks that
usually fall below 2,000 m above sea level. In its northern
and central part, the mountains are made up of paleozoic and
mesozoic granites as well as of metamorphic rocks that were
raised during the alpine fold. In the southern part,
however, rocks from older Paleozoic dominate. Both ground
cover and forest vegetation have been severely destroyed.
The coastal zone, which has been raised for a quarter, has
terraces and a straight coastline that is poor in natural
Due to Chile's topographic structure, the runoff is to
the west. The rivers are short but rich in falls; in the
northern part is the Loa, the longest, 440 km, and in the
south Bío Bío, the richest, with a water flow of 480 m
Chile's geographical design - both in terms of the
country's long range in the north-south and its elevation
conditions - results in a great deal of climatic
differentiation. The influence of the sea in the west also
means a strong leveling of the temperatures. A number of
climate types can thus be distinguished from north to south.
Desert climate is furthest to the north from the
Peruvian border to about 31 ° south latitude with the
Atacama Desert in the central part of the arid area. It is
the high-pressure cell in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and
the cold Humboldt stream along the west coast that work
together to provide continuous drought even along the coast.
Because even though the air there is humid and gives high
frequency of fog, especially during the summer, no rain
falls. The daytime temperature exhibits a large amplitude.
The average temperature for the summer is around 30 °C and
in wintertime reaches the nighttime freezing point. The heat
radiation from the sun is crucial for the temperature and
should be the highest in the world. Precipitation is almost
completely missing or falls only a few years; so for example
Arica in the north 0.6 mm per year. The rainfall is
increasing slightly towards the south, and a smaller area
where there is a steep climate.
Further south, about 33–38 ° south latitude, a warm
temperate climate of Mediterranean type prevails.
During the summer, the high pressure, which is now slightly
further north, gives beautiful sunny days, while low
pressure affects the area in wintertime and results in
cloudy weather and frontal rainfall, 300-500 mm per year.
This climate is favorable for Mediterranean-type agriculture
with products such as grapes, apricots, melons and peach.
The southern part of Chile (43–49 ° south latitude) is
completely under the influence of the polar front and
therefore receives a humid temperate coastal climate.
The prevailing west wind brings in humid air masses from the
sea and lowers the temperature. In the southernmost islands,
the temperature in summer (December - January) is below 10 °C, which is why a climate similar to tundra climate
exists. However, the average wintertime temperature
does not fall below 0 °C.
The parts of Chile that are outside the mentioned climate
regions belong to the Andes main chain. The temperature
conditions here are mainly determined by the elevation
position, as well as the precipitation, which here is
orographically enhanced and averages 2,500 mm per year but
in some places reaches up to 5,000 mm. This abundant
rainfall along with the cool summer causes glaciers to form
in the mountains and even reach out to the sea. The climate
types found in the Andes are usually summarized under the
term mountain climate.
Plant-and animal life
Chile is a very elongated and hilly country, and the
plant and animal life changes greatly from north to south
and with the height above the sea.
Andes provide an effective barrier to tropical areas in
Argentina and Paraguay; Chile is therefore relatively poor
in species and lacks many organisms that are otherwise
widely distributed in South America, such as the family of
heliconia plants and monkeys, caimans, poison snakes and
vipers. In Chile there are almost 100 species of terrestrial
mammals, just over 100 species of reptiles and almost 300
species of breeding birds.
Of the flora, which includes about 5,500 species of
vascular plants, a relatively large proportion is endemic,
about 125 vascular plants are restricted to Chile, for
example Jubaea (which includes vine palm,
Jubaea chilensis, one of the few non-tropical palms in
the world), Lapageria (lianas in the family lily
plants) and Lardizabala (lianas in the family
Chile encompasses eight ecoregions, five of which are
described here. The other three have their main distribution
outside Chile's borders: the Sechura desert is mainly
located in Peru and the South Andean steppes and the
Patagonian steppes are mainly located in Argentina and
therefore described there.
In northern Chile lies the Atacama Desert, the driest
place on earth and one of the world's best places for
astronomical studies. With extreme drought over the last 3
million years, the desert is one of the oldest in the world.
Due to the extremely dry climate, few plants and animals
are found. Despite this, no less than 500 different plants
have been described, most in areas where cloud banks from
the Pacific Ocean provide some moisture. Examples are
various thyme species and several cacti, including
Echinopsis atacamensis which can grow up to 7 m high
and is used for furniture manufacturing and other
constructions. The most common animals are lizards, but a
few amphibians have adapted to the desert conditions. The
rare species of tamarugo beak (Conirostrum tamarugense)
is one of the birds and viscacha is one of the few mammals.
At the far south along the Pacific coast is the Pan de
Azúcar National Park with a richer plant and animal life. In
the islands, Hummingbird penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)
breed, and guanaco, magellan fox, crab butter (Lontra
felina) and South American sea lion are relatively
To the east of the Atacama Desert, where the desert meets
the Andes with snow-capped mountain peaks, volcanoes, high
plateaus and lakes, there is dry puna. The sparse forests
are dominated by small trees of the genus Polylepis. Higher
up, in the zone between 3,500 and 5,000 m above sea level,
dwarf bushes and alpine, tropical flora dominate.
The region is rain-poor and animals and plants are
adapted to the extreme temperatures and high altitudes. Here
are mammals such as Vikunja, guanaco, Andinese cat (Leopardus
jacobitus), mackerel fox, a species of hair belt (Chaetophractus
nationi) and Peruvian huemul (Hippocamelus
antisiensis). The lakes, for example, in the Lauca
National Park, attract many waterfowl, including giant
caterpillar (Fulica gigantea), andean goose (Chloephaga
melanoptera), punaibis (Plegadis ridgwayi),
andean shark spot (Recurvirostra andina), punta
beach altar (Charadrius altarpiper) (Charadrius
altarpiper)Podiceps occipitalis), tuftsand (Lophonetta
specularioides) and three species of flamingo:
punaflamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), chile
flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) and andean
flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus). Outside of the
national parks and reserves, the region is strongly
influenced by human activities such as livestock management,
forest clearing, mining and firewood collection.
Along the central coast of Chile there is Chilean Matral,
a unique Mediterranean-type nature characterized by
scattered trees and dense, tall undergrowth of grass and
herbs. Similar vegetation types are found, except in the
Mediterranean region, in South Africa, California and
southwestern Australia. The climate is characterized by hot,
dry summers and humid, chilly winters.
The region is characterized by many endemic plant species
(95 percent) and animal species (especially within the group
of iguanas). No native mammals but are more rare species
such kodkod (Leopardus guigna, it lose the cat in
America), southern Pudu (Pudu Pudu, one 35 cm high
deer), Monito Del Monte and Pichi (Zaedyus pichiy).
A couple of endemic bird species in Chile, including the
chandelier hummingbird (Sephanoides sephaniodes),
chiletinamo (Nothoprocta perdicaria) and white-
throated tapakul (Scelorchilus albicollis), have
their main distribution here. Along the coast are a few
typical but rare bird species, including perudykpetrell (Pelecanoides
garnotii), perupelican (Pelecanus thagus),
guano cormorant, red-footed cormorant (Phalacrocorax
gaimardi) and the distinctive incarceration (Larosterna
inca). Large parts of the region are strongly
influenced by human activities and are considered
Valdivian temperate forests
The unique eco-region of Valdivian temperate forests is
located in central Chile with foothills to western
Argentina. Due to the complicated relief with high mountains
and deep fjords, the vegetation shows great variations and
five different forest types have been described. Up to 90
percent of the trees are found only around the world and the
closest relatives are found in Australia, New Zealand and
New Caledonia, which indicates a common past in Gondwanaland
550-300 million years ago.
The region is especially famous for its many amphibians,
several of them endemic. Among the mammals, there are also a
few unique species, such as chiloé point crabs with their
closest relatives in Australia. Two other endemics are the
chile rat (Irenomys tarsalis) and the chilein
rabbit (Rhyncholestes raphanurus), which live in
the mountain forests. Chilean huemul are rare in the most
inaccessible mountain areas. As only about 1 percent of the
original population remains, the species has been
categorized as acutely endangered.
The bird fauna is similar to that in Magellan's subpolar
forests, with species such as magpies (Campephilus
magellanicus), magellan (Buteo ventralis),
bronze-winged duck (Speculanas specularis) and
condor. In addition, species such as chile parakeet (Enicognathus
leptorhynchus), magellan parakeet (Enicognathus
ferrugineus), black-throated tapakul (Pteroptochos
tarnii), and chucaotapakul (Scelorchilus rubecula)
with their main residence in temperate forests.
On the island of Isla Guafo in the Pacific, there is the
world's largest colony of gray lira with 4 million nesting
pairs. Along the coast there are marine mammals such as
white-bellied dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia),
South American sea lion, South American fur seal, crabs and
southern sea elephant.
Outside the Corcovado National Park, in 2014, the large
marine reserve Tic-Toc was allocated to protect the southern
hemisphere's largest blue whale population with 1,400
individuals feeding their young here.
The region has long been exposed to deforestation, and
more than a third of the original area has been felled and
several national parks and reserves have therefore been
allocated. To reverse the negative trend, a couple of
unique, private initiatives have also been started to
protect and restore certain areas, including Corcovado
National Park and a new Patagonian National Park near the
border with Argentina.
Magellanic subpolar forests
The farthest south is the Magellan subpolar forests. The
landscape here is majestic with high mountains, deep fjords,
extensive glaciers and forests with southern bushes
surrounded by the often wind-whipped ocean.
As in Valdivian temperate forests, there are a number of
plants related to Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia,
but Magellan's subpolar forests are colder and in some parts
drier, leading to fewer plant and animal species. There are
few endemic species among the animals. Several species
however has its main extension in the region, such as
Magellanic Plover, rosthuvad goose (sheldgoose
rubidiceps), upland goose (sheldgoose picta),
striated caracara (Phalcoboenus australis),
stricklandbeckasin (Gallinago stricklandii),
magellanvråk (Buteo ventralis) and Magellanic
woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus). Southern
river otter (Lontra provocax), puma, magellan fox,
pampas fox, guanaco, chilean huemul and southern pudu occur
here as well as further north in other regions. A number of
mice and amphibians are endemic.
Southwest of the mainland is four isolated island groups
with large seabird colonies of black-browed albatross,
Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus),
Rockhopper penguins, southern giant petrel (Macronectes
giganteus), Gray-headed albatross (Thalassarche
chrysostoma) and blue petrel (Halo Baena caerulea).
The cold, nutritious Humboldt stream creates the conditions
for the rich marine life that forms the basis for the colony
breeding birds and the marine mammals.
Three islands in the Pacific belong to Chile. Isolated
370 km west of the mainland is Easter Island. Studies have
shown that once upon a time the island was covered with palm
trees and deciduous forests that disappeared in connection
with the first colonization from Polynesia. Today, the
island is covered with grasslands and most of the original
flora has disappeared. The last specimen of the Passover
tree died in 1962. The original plants that have managed the
best are the ferns, and four of the 15 species found are
No native mammals are present and among the birds only
four marine species of conservation interest: Polynesian
storm swallow (Nesofregetta fuliginosa, severely
threatened), brown lira (Puffinus nativitatis),
red-footed cormorant and gray noddy (Procelsterna
The other archipelago is the Juan Fernández Islands,
which is considerably closer, 67 miles from the mainland.
One of the three islands has been named Isla Robinson Crusoe
as it served as inspiration and model for Daniel Defoe's
famous book. The vegetation is dominated by temperate
forests and is still relatively intact. Three bird species
are endemic: Juan Fernandez hummingbird (firecrown
fernandensis) robinsoncrusoemestyrann (Anairetes
fernandezianus) and masafuerarayadito (Aphra Tura
masafuerae) while three marine birds footed Shearwater
(Puffinus creatopus), robinsoncrusoepetrell (Pterodroma
defilippiana), and Stjenegers petrel (Pterodroma
longirostris) has a slightly wider spread.
Further north and 85 miles from mainland Chile is Islas
Desventuradas, a small archipelago of volcanic origin.
Temperate forests dominate vegetation but relatively little
is known about plant and animal life. The islands do,
however, have a good population of robin concentrus
Chile has a large number of nature-protected areas (18%
of the country's area) with about 35 national parks, among
them Lauca (highland with bay and huemul), Los Paraguas y
Conguillio (lakes and forests of brood fir and southern
trees) and Torres del Paine (rich wildlife) and beautiful
scenery). The latter is at the same time a biosphere