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Geography of South America Geography

Along the west side of South America rises the Andes, a continuation south of the Cordillarians in North America. Like these, the Andes consist of a complex of several parallel chains which in some places are joined together in solid. The chains reach an average of 4,000–5,000 m above sea level. Of the peaks, Aconcagua (6,962 m above sea level) is highest. The chains are separated by valleys such as the valley of the Magdalena River in the north and the large north-southbound central valley in Chile or by high plateaus such as Altiplano (southeastern Peru and western Bolivia) with South America's largest lake Titicaca (3,812 m above sea level). Large salt lakes occur on the plateaus. The largest is Salar de Uyuni, about 9 000 km2. Volcanoes are common except in the far south, and many are active. Earthquakes often occur and cause large breeds and landslides in the steep terrain. Glaciers and glacial erosion forms the highest parts of the Andes. In the south, glaciers reach all the way down to the sea. The west side of the southern Andes is characterized by fjord coast and archipelagos. On the west side of the central Andes lies the Atacama Desert.

In northern South America, the highlands of Guyana reach almost 3,000 meters above sea level. in the central part and 3 014 meters above sea level. in Pico da Neblina in the southwest. The highland, which is an urban area, otherwise consists of a series of low mountains (below 1,000 m above sea level) with wooded lowlands in between. As in the Brazilian highlands, which is also an urban area, plains with single domed inselbergs are common. The Brazilian Highlands is highest in the east and south-east and reaches almost 3,000 m above sea level in Serra do Mar. Steep slopes reach all the way to the coast, for example. Rio de Janeiro. In the south, the paranabalas form plateaus at different levels. There are several waterfalls in the area, e.g. in the river Iguaçú. Sloping layers of sedimentary rocks form cuestic landscapes within the highlands. The drainage mainly takes place against the Paraguay – Paraná lowlands and the Amazon basin; The São Francisco River in a deep cut valley in the Northeast is an exception.

Between the highlands, the Amazon basin is spreading, mostly below 200 m above sea level. Alluvial material forms a pleasant terrain. Orinoco's lowland between the Andes and the Guyanese highlands is a rolling plain, made up of alluvial material. It rarely reaches over 300 meters above sea level. and is an offshoot of the Amazon basin. Paraguay-Paranás lowlands start in the north in the flat Pantanal, during the rainy season a swamp, and turn south in Pampas, a plain which, however, rises from about 20 m above sea level. at Buenos Aires to 500 m asl. at the Andes. Patagonia, farthest to the south, consists of a series of plateaus that rise from east to west to about 1,000 m above sea level. at the Andes.

Soil and soils

Three different types of geological regions can be discerned in South America's bedrock: cratons ; ancient continent parts that have been relatively stable and not exposed to mountain range formation or extensive deformation since Proterozoic (more than 570 million years ago); sedimentation pools, i.e. depressions or streams in the earth's crust where thick deposits of sediment have been deposited and a complex of parallel mountain ranges, the Andes, along the west coast. Volcanic activity during Jurassic and Cretaceous (about 208–65 million years before today) has resulted in extensive plateau base salts, e.g. the up to 1,800 m thick paranabal salts in Brazil.

South America has mainly been built around the Guyanese shield and the Brazilian shield, which form the bedrock in much of Brazil and northeastern South America. These bedrock shields consist of rocks formed during the Precambrian (older than about 570 million years), mainly granites, gneisses, mica slates and green stones. The shields have arisen through at least five mountain range formations (orogenesis), with new crustaceans being gradually added to the continent. The oldest known mountain range formation occurred during the archaeological period, over 3,000 million years ago. The youngest mountain range formation took place from the end of the Precambrian (to the beginning of Ordovician (about 700-480 million years ago)) and particularly affected the eastern part of the Brazilian shield. The mountain chains (orogens) that build up the shields are today degraded.

In many areas, the shields are covered by flat sedimentary rocks from Ordovician to Tertiary (about 470–2 million years before today). These rocks build up so-called platforms, which together with the shields form cratons. The thickest bearing sequences have been deposited in sedimentation basins formed by vertical movements in the earth's crust, often for a very long time. Larger pools include the Amazon Basin, the Paranaíba Basin and the Paraná Basin. From carbon to the end of the Triassic (about 363–208 million years ago), so-called gondola deposits were deposited, which are dominated by continental sandstones and shales. Gondwan inventory sequences are found in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. They can be rich in fossil vertebrates and plants, e.g. genus Glossopteris. The lower parts of the gondola storage sequences often contain glacial deposits, e.g. trust, from carbon (about 363-290 million years before today). The spread of these glacial deposits shows that icings covered the southeastern parts of South America (including the Falkland Islands) during this period. Traces of icing have also been found in silur (about 439-409 million years before today).

During the Paleozoic period (about 570–245 million years ago), the western continent border followed approximately the eastern edge of the Andes. Westwards, thousands of meters of thick warehouses were set aside. Through continental movements, mountain range formation and fusion with microcontinents, South America expanded to the west. One of the microcontinents that was annexed to South America in the Middle to Younger Paleozoic (about 430–370 million years ago) is Patagonia.

For many million years, South America belonged to the giant continent Gondwana. During the Jurassic period (about 208–146 million years before today), Gondwana began to split, but it was only during Cretaceous (about 146–65 million years before present) that the South Atlantic was formed when Africa separated from South America. Through the movement westwards, South America collided with the seabed, the Nazca plate, in the west. From the compressed material, continental crust was now created in the form of a mountain chain system, the Andes, along the west side of the continent. The Andes have been in formation for more than 600 million years, but the real and not yet completed development of the mountain range complex began during the Alpine orogenesis about 200 million years ago. Weathering products from the Andes have given rise to large amounts of sediment deposited east of the mountain range.

During the cold times that characterize the Quaternary period (the last about 1.65 million years), the glaciers in the northern and central Andes had a slightly larger distribution than today. More extensive ice cover was found in the southern part of the Andes. In the Land of Fire and the southernmost Patagonia, the inland ice also covered the lowlands and reached its maximum extent all the way to the Atlantic coast. In some dry parts of South America there were large so-called pluvial lakes during the cold periods. The largest of these was Lake Forntitica (Lago Ballivián).

For almost the entire tertiary period (approximately 65–1.65 million years before today), South America was isolated from North America, and for a large part of the period only one island connection existed between the continents. The South American fauna underwent its own development, giving rise to a number of distinctive mammals. Only at the end of the Pliocene (about 3.5 million years ago) did the Panamanese emerge. As a result, South America was invaded by modern mammals from North America, which greatly contributed to reducing the age-old mammal fauna. Fossil mammals from the Tertiary and Quaternary periods are known from a number of places. Classic finds originate from the so-called pampas formation in northern Argentina.

The soils of South America are dominated by weathering soils and alluvial sediments. In the Land of Fire and the southernmost Patagonia, the soils are mainly moraine and other glacial deposits. Loose soils have a widespread distribution on Pampas.


The northeastern half of South America is dominated by heavily weathered and very ancient soils (ferral soles, acrisols and lixisols), located on geologically stable ground (the Guyanese shield and the Brazilian shield ). There are also iron-rich plinthosols whose soil material can be petrified if it dries. On sandy soils there are arena soles and pod soles. In the flat areas along the Amazon, fluvisols (flooding soils) and slides are common.

In the area south of Brazil, the soils are conditioned by the warm-tempered and relatively dry climate, and the soil sequence becomes planosols, chernozems, castanozems and calcisols as the climate gradually becomes drier towards the Andean rain shadow. In the Andes leptosols (thin soils) dominate, but in areas of volcanism, andosols are also common. Otherwise, there are sliding suns in flat, poorly drained areas across the continent as well as salt soils in semi-arid areas of Argentina and northern Chile.


Due to the large extent of South America in the north-south direction, the climate varies greatly. However, more than half of the continent has a tropical climate, as a result of having its greatest width along the equator and just south of it. Among factors such as affecting the South American climatic conditions is the special relief, especially the Andes high and long mountain range in the west. Apart from the temperature drop in the higher levels of the Andes, the air of the humid west winds emit most of its humidity in the form of orographic rainfall (ie rainfall caused by the shape of the earth's surface, for example contiguous terrain). To the east of the mountain range, rain shadow is formed with a dry climate as a result. Cold ocean currents flowing north, especially the Humboldt stream in the eastern Pacific Ocean, it also cools the air, causing one of the driest climates on earth - in the Atacama Desert - to rise along the coast of Chile. For the rainfall distribution f.o. In South America, the subtropical high-pressure cells on either side of the equator play an important role. They give rise to the pass winds, which hit the continent's east side with rainy season for part of the year as a result. This results in the humid, tropical savannah climate that has the largest spread of the different climates in South America. In the mid-latitudes, the west wind dominates, and the west winds that hit southern parts of Chile give rise to the large rainfall that falls here.

Tropical climates occur throughout the northern, broad part of South America. Tropical rainforest climates are more prevalent here than on any other continent. They cover the entire Amazon basin, continue along the Atlantic coast to the south and north, and can also be found along Colombia's Pacific coast. The average daily temperature is around 30 °C with annual and monthly variations less than 3 °C. Precipitation falls steadily throughout the year and amounts to 2,770 mm in southern Brazil (Belém) and in Iquitos in Peru to 1,770 mm. In the Chocó region of Colombia, about 10,000 mm per year falls. The tropical climate's humid variant, the savannah climate, has an average temperature of more than 18 °C during all months. However, the average daily temperatures vary considerably, or from 18 °C to 35 °C. There is a clear dry time during the year and the rainfall amounts to between 900 mm and 1 600 mm per year. This climate covers the entire Orinoco basin, the highlands of Brazil and the western part of Ecuador.

Temperate climates occur mainly south of the tapered part of South America. due to a far greater temperature variation during the day. A warm, humid climate characterized by the average temperature of the coldest month being between 18 °C and −3 °C is concentrated to the southern tropic and areas just south of it. It thus covers Paraguay as well as parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. The rainfall exceeds in the east, thanks to winds and warm ocean currents from the Atlantic, 450 mm but decreases to the west. In central Chile, between 32 ° south latitude and 38 ° south latitude, there is a warm-temperate climate with dry season in summer (October – April) and mild winters with moderate rain, Mediterranean climate. S. Chile has colder winters, however, with temperatures significantly above normal for latitude. The rainfall on the western side of the Andes is plentiful in general and of the orographic type (in Valdivia, Chile, the annual rainfall is 2,500 mm). Further inland, rain shadow is formed with very little rainfall.

Cold climates, including cold-tempered climates and polar climates, have very little scope in South America. They occur only in the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile as well as in the Andes at levels above 3 500 m above sea level, where it is also called mountain climate. In the northern Andes, the climate is cool and foggy with about 12 °C during the day and −2 °C at night; from central Peru to Bolivia and Chile with even lower temperatures.

Dry climate occurs mainly in four major areas. In the south there is a north-south belt from Patagonia to northwest Argentina with an annual rainfall of only 100–175 mm. The variation in average temperature between different months is large in Patagonia, more than 20 °C. Dry climate also marks a narrow coastal strip along the Pacific Ocean from 5 ° to 31 ° south latitude, where the Atacama Desert is spreading. The cold Humboldt stream cools the air closest to the sea, giving a dense cloud layer of 350 to 1,000 m above sea level. is formed and prevents the lower parts from heating up. Rain is therefore rare, as is sunshine over a period of six months. Only by condensation of fog can water be obtained. Another area with a dry climate is a coastal strip along the north coast between Colombia and Venezuela. Northeast Brazil has a dry climate with only 100 mm of rainfall in certain years.

Plant Life

Rainforests in northern South America are probably the world's richest ecosystems. Ecuador, with an area much like the Norrlands, is estimated to have about 15,000 species of seed plants, Brazil perhaps 40,000. Important plant families throughout tropical South America are palm trees, Panama plants, paranets and crass plants, among epiphytes, especially orchids and pineapple plants. Originally from the Amazon comes rubber trees and giant lilies. Pollination using hummingbirds is common.

Many useful plants originate from northern South America, such as corn, cocoa, pineapple, tomato, peppers, avocado, passion fruit and cassava. Potatoes originate from the Andes (Peru, Bolivia).

In drier tropical areas (parts of Colombia, Venezuela, northeast, central and southern Brazil) deciduous forest and savanna (campos, llanos) occur. In the temperate parts (Argentina, Uruguay) there are extensive grasslands (pampas), dry steppes and semi-deserts. Patagonia's steppes form a transition to the Antarctic floral kingdom.

In the Andes there are species in the northern temperate genus such as violets, dewdrops and brackets, but also the Antarctic genus such as thorn pimples ( Acaena), gold pads (Azorella) and gunners. Above the forest border, dry mountain heaths (puna) with plants in dense cushions or, in the more humid equatorial parts (páramos) with, among other things, so-called rosewoods, grow very large herbs with dense leaf rosettes; these include pineapple plants and lupins. From the mountain forests of the Andes are derived from koa bush and Chinese trees.

On the coastal strip west of the Andes there is vegetation of Mediterranean type. To the north, it passes into one of the world's driest deserts, the Atacama Desert, which is conditioned by the cold Humboldt stream.

The area farthest to the south and southwest and neighboring islands (Falkland Islands, southern Georgia) is counted as the Antarctic Flora Kingdom. On the mainland, there are moist, mossy forests of the southern beetles and other Antarctic genera such as thyme pimples and Phyllachne. The islands are forestless with moist grasslands (tussock grass).


The Neotropicalthe region is the richest of the world's fauna regions. The animals are a mixture of a surviving, isolated fauna that lived during the tertiary period, which had developed undisturbed, and sentimental immigrants from the north. Immigration from North America, which began during the quarter, resulted in the elimination of several animal groups, including giant sloth. The number of endemic species is strikingly high. Examples of exclusive mammalian families are bedbugs, marshes, claws and cebus-like broad noses. The marsupials are represented by about 70 species (Inca bean mice, purse rats and chiloé point rat). South America is sometimes called the continent of birds, fish and butterflies. Of the two first mentioned groups, there are about 3,000 and 2,700 species in South America, respectively. Nandu's, stubble-tailed chickens, hoatzin, toucans, marsh birds, ovens and cots are some of the approximately 30 endemic, neotropical bird families. All of the world's approximately 320 hummingbird species occur in the Neotropical region, of which a dozen, however, also occur in the US-Canada (a species all the way to Alaska). Cichlids and salmon carp (including pirayas) are rich species of fish, and malignant fish are richly represented. Typical neotropical reptiles are caimans, iguanas, teju lizards, boa worms and coral worms. Among the amphibians, special mention should be made of leaf frogs, toothpads, paradox frogs and arrow poison frogs; Some species of the latter family have extremely toxic skin secretions. The small creep fauna is flowing rich with beetles as the richest group.

The South and Central American rainforests are the world's richest ecosystems. Here, among other things, jaguar, ozalot, nose bear, vampires (bats), many monkeys, amazon manate (a sea cow), amazonian dolphin, ant cubs, bedspreads, tapirs, umbilicals and capybara (the world's largest rodent). Hummingbirds, macaws and other parrots, toucans, ovenbirds, marsh birds, tyrants and kingfishers are dominant bird groups. Boa worms (including anaconda) and caimans belong to the larger herbivores. The butterfly fauna is extremely rich. large, blue-shining sky butterflies.

The high plateaus of the Andes house an interesting animal world, with a bayonet, guanaco (probably the wild form of the lamans and alpacans), guinea pigs, condor, frog snails, three species of flamingos and several endemic dipping species. Here, and especially in the mountain forests, is South America's only bear, the glasses bear.

Peru's and Chile's extremely dry coastal deserts are inhabited only by a few specialized animals, mainly arthropods and reptiles. Coastal islands off the deserts, on the other hand, house large colonies of South American sea lions and guano-producing soles, cormorants and pelicans, all of which live on fish (including anchoveta) in the nutrient-rich Humboldt stream. The Galápagos Islands are known for their many endemic forms, including elephant turtles, land and sea iguanas and galapagos finches.

Old-world savannas and steppes are grazed mainly by ungulates; Argentina's large grassland, Pampas, contains pampas deer and guanaco, but vegetation is mostly grazed by smaller animals, in particular viscaches, mares and other rodents; nowadays, however, tambourine dominates. Belt and nandu are also typical pampas animals.

In Patagonia, there are guanaco, magellan fox, incanabic mice, mountain snandu, steamboat ducks and several species of brock geese, among others. magellan goose (Chloeʹphaga piʹcta). In addition to the South American sea lion, there are also southern sea elephants. Both of these species are attacked by killer whales, who regularly patrol the coasts. Near the coast you can sometimes also meet on southern hijackers, a choice that is sometimes regarded as a subspecies by northern hijackers, but is now often regarded as a special species.

Natural Resources

South America has significant assets of almost all metals. In the urban areas there are iron, manganese, tungsten, titanium, gold, lead and zinc ores. The Carajás Mountains (Brazil) are thought to have the world's largest iron ore reserve, about 18 billion tonnes of 66 percent ore, along with large deposits of copper, manganese, nickel, gold and bauxite. Significant bauxite resources are also found in Guyana and Suriname. In the Andes, besides alloy metals, tin, gold and silver, there are very large reserves of porphyry copper. Chile and Peru together have about 25% of the world's copper reserves. Gold is found as wash basins in several areas of the Amazon basin. Similarly, there is tin in Rondônia in Brazil.

Of non-metals, there are larger resources of phosphate, nitrate, mainly Chilean salts, and salt in South America's dry areas.

According to Abbreviationfinder, energy resources are dominated by oil (Venezuela, the Amazon lowlands in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and Argentina). Larger reserves of natural gas are found in Venezuela and Argentina. Oil sands occur in Venezuela. South America has comparatively small assets of coal (Colombia, Brazil). The known uranium resources are also small, only about 5% of the world (Brazil, Peru and Argentina). Hydropower potential is great, especially in the tributaries of the Amazon River from the Brazilian highlands. The world's largest hydropower plant Itaipú (12,870 MW) is located in the Paraná River, which flows south from the Brazilian highlands.

The freshwater is insufficient in both South America's dry areas and in most metropolitan regions, where pollution is also a major problem. The tropical rainforest, together with savannas (mainly Brazil) and temperate grasslands (Argentina), are the most economically important but partially over-exploited natural vegetation types. The previously extensive araucaria forests (which give the wood species parana pine) are largely cut away. The temperate forests in southern Chile are being harvested at a rapid rate. In the Amazon lowlands, the northwest and forests of Guyana are largely untouched. Otherwise, the rainforests are being degraded to provide space for primarily settler agriculture and livestock farming (meat animals) alongside large logging for firewood, timber and pulp. The temperate grasslands (Pampas) have been transformed into agricultural and livestock areas. Loose soil here forms the basis for the cultivated soil. Most of South America's cultivated soils are otherwise weathering soils that form the basis for meager lateritic soils. Laterite crusts are common as a result of soil degradation in areas with lateritic soils. In the Andes, the often good alluvial soils are important. South America has among the world's most economically important but over-exploited fishing waters off Peru and Chile.

Countries in South America
  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Brazil
  4. Chile
  5. Colombia
  6. Ecuador
  7. Guyana
  8. Paraguay
  9. Peru
  10. Suriname
  11. Uruguay
  12. Venezuela

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