Terrain shapes and bedrock
According to COUNTRYAAH, the largest of Brazil’s landform regions is the Brazilian highlands. It occupies close to 2/3 of the surface and holds several different types of terrain: a plateau of 300–900 m asl. which was leveled in Paleozoic times and then raised, a hill-landscape and a valley-landscape with deep-cut valleys in once powerful mountain ranges. Although none of the mountains now reach up to 3,000 m above sea level. the relief is often extreme, e.g. The Mantiqueira Mountains with the Agulhas Negra peak (2,787 m asl), the Bandeira Mountains (2,890 m asl) and the Espinhaço mountains with the Almastop.
To the south, a faulty area, the Great fault slope, takes a break of fault, with a length of 2,560 km, which from Rio de Janeiro and south is called the Marber. The height of the slopes can reach 1,000 m, and they form a vertical front to the sea. The edges of lowered, lower blocks can provide peaks such as Rio de Janeiro’s famous Sugar Peak (390 m above sea level). Even north of Rio de Janeiro, the slope continues as a series of broken, bare blocks with deep, steep valleys and rounded peaks. This includes Aimorésbergen.
Much of the Brazilian highlands is a shield area with Precambrian bedrock, which was once part of Gondwana. Through erosion, large amounts of sedimentary rocks have been formed, which now unite the various bedrock cores in Brazil’s bedrock. These are mainly located to the northeast, southeast, central and western parts of the Brazilian highlands. In the south, older formations have been buried under the covers of diabaslava, which borders the fault zone and also form the Geral Mountains. To the west, the diabetic deck ends with a slope, over which the Iguaçu River throws its water masses and forms the known Iguaçu Falls. The same type was the Guaiá Falls until the large power plant dam at Itaipú in the Paraná River began to be built.
Another highland, on the border with Venezuela, the Guyanese highlands, originated in Brazil’s second aboriginal shield, the Guiana Shield, and is shaped as a wavy surface between 200 and 800 m above sea level. Along the Venezuelan border, Neblina rises, 3,014 m above sea level, which is Brazil’s highest point, discovered in 1962.
Another landform type, lowland areas, is present. The dominant is the large Amazon lowlands, but a few others can be mentioned, the Pantanal in the southwest around the upper Paraguay River and the coastal plains along the Atlantic coast. The Amazon lowlands are largely a fun area, built up by alluvial deposits and raised to their current level, ie. lower than 250 m asl The river plains closest to the Amazon River and its tributaries vary greatly in their design. These may be shallow lakes and other water bodies that fill old river basins or mangrove swamps in the delta tidal area. However, it is the most recently deposited areas in the inner parts of the river arches and the slightly higher-lying levies that are dry and useful for cultivation. Pantanal in the southwest, a continuation of the Gran Chacos plain, consists mostly of marsh and marshlands and is known for its natural beauty and rich wildlife. The lowlands of the Atlantic coast are widest in the north, up to 200 km, and tapering to the south. Landforms vary from flat coastal plains to marshes, lagoons, dune areas and wide sandy beaches, sometimes protected by coral reefs.
The soil cover in Brazil is mostly leached, such as the lateritic soils in the central parts and the pod oil soils in the south. Only in the east are larger areas with chestnut and brown earth moons, which are fertile.
Brazil, for the most part, has a humid tropical or subtropical climate. An exception to this is the northeastern part of the country, which has a predominantly dry climate, with only 375–750 mm of precipitation per year. It is also the hottest region in the country, with an average summer temperature of 29 °C and daytime temperatures above 38 °C. In winter, the average temperature is 26 °C. Most of the Amazon basin has a tropical rainforest climate, where the average temperature is 26 °C throughout the year.
The rainfall here is extremely high, 2,000–3,000 mm per year except in the central part, where it amounts to 1,000–1,750 mm. In the Brazilian highlands, a tropical savannah climate with rainy season prevails in summer (November – April) and dry season in winter (May – October). A summer low pressure over the highlands introduces humid air from both the South and the North Atlantic. The latter air mass absorbs additional moisture from the Amazon forests and water areas. Where the air masses meet the intertropical convergence zone, heavy rain falls, which can produce 300 mm per month.
In winter, southern Brazil is dominated by polar air masses with migrating low pressure, which can provide 100–125 mm of precipitation per month, temporarily in the form of snow. However, the further penetration of cold air to the north is hindered by the winter high pressure over the highlands, which is therefore dry in winter. Cold air, on the other hand, can penetrate from the south through Paraguay’s lowlands and reach into the Amazon basin, all the way to the Guyanese border, causing a decrease in temperature by several degrees.
Plant-and animal life
Brazil is divided into 5 ecological regions – the Atlantic Forest along the southeast coast, Cerrado in central Brazil, Pantanal in the south-west, the Amazon around the Amazon River and Caatinga in northeastern Brazil.
In the southernmost part of the country there is a part of Pampas, but since the main distribution is in Argentina, Pampa’s plant and animal world is described there.
Along the southeast coast of Brazil, from the Rio Grande de Norte in the north to the Rio Grande do Sul in the south, lies the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s richest natural areas. The region consists of a 50–100 km wide coastal zone as well as an inland zone reaching northern Argentina and eastern Paraguay.
Although only a tenth of the original nature remains, here 20,000 species of vascular plants (which corresponds to 6–7 percent of the earth’s total plant species) are penetrated on an area of about one fifth of Sweden’s. The forests are among the richest in South America – on average there are 450 different tree species per km2, which is about as many as in the whole of Europe. Furthermore, there are approximately 950 species of birds, 260 mammals, 450 amphibians, 310 reptiles and 350 different freshwater fish.
The area was isolated during the recent ice age, which has created a variety of unique species that are only found here – 70 percent of the trees, 85 percent of the monkeys and 62 percent of the amphibians are endemic (see endemism). Among the birds, the following rare species are mentioned: red-billed hocko (Crax blumenbachii) and parrots red-tailed amazon (Amazona brasiliensis) and red-brown amazon (Amazona rhodocorytha).
Among the mammals, the Atlantic Forest is most associated with lion monkeys, of which there are four endemic species: common lion monkey, yellow-headed lion monkey, yellow-headed lion monkey, and black-headed lion monkey. Two other endemic monkeys are the wool spider monkeys Brachyteles hypoxanthus and Brachyteles arachnoides, which are the largest primates in the New World. Other strange, endemic mammals are collar anglers (Bradypus torquatus) and bristles (Chaetomys subspinosus).
Several species of deciduous frogs are known only from a single site, two snake turtles are found only here, while five species of sea turtles lay their eggs along the coast – illegitimate sea turtle, mushroom turtle, sea-turtle turtle and southern bastard turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).
In central Brazil lies Cerrado, a high plateau with savannah-like vegetation characterized by a longer, annual dry period from May to September (see savannah forest). Like the Atlantic forest, Cerrado was isolated during the recent icing and around 4,400 of the total 10,000 plants occur only here. Many of the plants are adapted to the natural fires that previously made their mark on the landscape. Today, four-fifths of the region is cultivated, mainly with soybeans, and nature conservation is being fought against strong financial interests to protect the remainder.
Cerrado has about 200 species of mammals and the area is Brazil’s most important area of distribution for manwolf, giant belts and giant ant capers. Among other mammals are jaguar, ozelot, jaguarundi, lowland tapestry, pampas deer and South America’s largest deer swamp deer (Blastocerus dichotomus). Of the 600 bird species, only 20 are endemic, including blue-eyed ground pigeon (Columbina cyanopis), mined geese dwarf tyrant (Phylloscartes roquettei) and Brazilian pakul (Scytalopus novacapitalis) – all severely threatened. Cerradoskraken (Mergus octosetaceus) with fewer than 250 individuals left in the free living in Cerrado but also in the Atlantic Forest. Among the more conspicuous birds are the ostrich relatives common nandu, the red-legged sera (Cariama cristata) and the crown antler (Buteogallus coronatus).
On the border with Argentina in the state of Paraná you will find the Iguaç national National Park with one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world that extends over 3 km and with a fall height of over 70 m.
Subtropical rainforests spread around the waterfalls and in the other national park, deciduous forests, including Brazilian pine (Araucaria angustifolia), dominate. Among the mammals are jaguar, ozelot, cougar, giant otter, neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis), tip deer (Mazama americana), black monkey monkey (Alouatta caraya) and two species of umbilical pigs. The bird life is rich with species such as red-breasted toucan (Ramphastos dicolorus), chimangokarakara (Milvago chimango), prickly-horned eagle (Spizaetus ornatus) and harpya (Harpia harpyia) – one of the world’s largest eagles.
In southwestern Brazil bordering Bolivia and Paraguay, Pantanal, one of the world’s largest wetland areas, is spreading. Along the river Paraguay with tributaries there are huge gallery forests and grasslands, which are flooded during the rainy season. In Pantanal there are a variety of species: 3,500 plants, 260 fish, 480 reptiles, 650 birds and 80 mammals.
Among the more knowledgeable are the Pantanal cayman (Caiman yacare) with an estimated population of 10 million animals, making Pantanal the world’s best place for crocodile-like reptiles. Jaguar, marsh deer, giant otter and Giant Anteater is widespread, especially towards the end of the dry period, when fish and other aquatic animals concentrated to small water collections, accumulate various stork (including Jabiru), ibises (including gråibis, theristicus caerulescens) looms (zebra heron, Zebrilus undulatus and black-crowned heron, Pilherodius pileatus) and the peculiar sunbathing party. No less than 26 species of parrots live in Pantanal, among other thingshyacintara, the world’s largest parrot.
Special tourist trips are arranged for the opportunity to experience jaguars along the beaches; here is the biggest chance in South America to see these cats. Among the herbivores is the yellow anaconda (Eunectes noteseus). It does not grow as big as its closest relative anaconda but can grow up to 4.4 m long and weigh 55 kg. It feeds on birds, bird eggs, fish, turtles, smaller mammals and even caimans.
The Amazon is primarily associated with Brazil, although important parts are found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Here is the world’s largest contiguous rainforest area.
The Amazon is much of a water world, where large areas are flooded during the rainy season which puts its special touch on fauna and flora. The Amazon River drains a huge area of almost 7 million km2, which is slightly smaller than Australia. There are around 40,000 different plants (including 16,000 trees), 2,500 fish, 430 amphibians, 375 reptiles, 1,300 birds and 425 mammals, but many species have not yet been described.
Among the most famous fish are the dreaded red-breasted piraya (Pygocentrus nattereri), but the fish mainly eats insects, worms and fish and attacks other animals only during the dry season; its danger to humans is greatly exaggerated. Another well-known fish in the Amazon is dung beetle. It is almost blind, but has three electrical organs that are used for locating, communicating and stunning prey and defense and it can generate currents up to 500 V and 1 A. The predatory fish arapaima is South America’s largest fish and can grow up to 4 m long and weigh over 200 kg, which, however, rarely happens today as it is intensively fished.
Most frogs live their entire lives in the crowns of the tree and do not depend on water collections for reproduction like their northern relatives.
In the river systems live no less than five different caimans, where the moraine caiman is the largest (5–6 m). South American Snake Turtle (Podocnemis expansa) is common and the females gather at suitable sandy beaches to lay their eggs. Giant chicks are still fairly common and are often seen hunting in groups during the day. The Amazon dolphin is widespread and prefers smaller river arms where it hunts fish using echo location, and the rare Amazon manate (Trichechus inunguis) is a siren only found here. The giant anaconda can grow up to 8.8 m long and weigh up to 227 kg. It prefers aquatic environments where it hunts all kinds of animals, even tapirs, deer, capybaras and smaller caimans.
The many primates make their mark on the rainforest; a large proportion of the around 100 species found in Brazil live in the Amazon. Some of the monkeys are more prevalent, such as white-browed capucine (Cebus albifrons) as well as several species of spring monkeys and whale monkeys, while others are geographically restrictive, such as gray wool monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha), long-haired spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth), imperial tamarin (Saguinus imperator). and the black skull monkey (Saimiri vanzolinii) first described in 1985.
Among the many bird species include 6-7 species of macaws (including red-and-green macaw), six kingfisher (eg green dwarf kingfisher, Chloroceryle aenea), seven Manakin (including praktmanakin, Chiroxiphia pareola) and nine buzzards (eg svartmaskad buzzard, Leucopternis melanops). If you are lucky, you can encounter yellow-footed forest turtle (Chelonoidis denticulata) that lives in the rainforest and can grow up to 1 m long.
As the threat to the Amazon continues to increase by cutting down the rainforest for soybean production and beef production, many conservation organizations are working to increase protection. One of the latest additions is a 60,000 km2 large area, the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, dedicated to the protection of tropical forests with associated river systems and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In northeastern Brazil lies the dryland bush forest Caatinga, a large area (850 000 km2) characterized by long dry periods and with an almost desert vegetation. Caatinga is the least studied of the country’s ecological regions. The flora consists of more than 1,000 different plant species. Best known is the bird fauna, where around 50 species are endemic. Among these, Lear’s Macaw (Anodorhynchus Leari), Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), Caatinga Parakeet (Eupsittula cactorum), caatingaträdklättrare (xiphocolaptes falcirostris), caatingamyrsmyg (herpsilochmus sellowi) and caatingatörnskrika (Pseudoseisura cristata). In addition to some smaller endemic mammals, there is also a special species of spring monkey (Callicebus barbarabrownae).