The Brazilian Highlands (Brazilian or Paraná Plateau), a vast geographical region, is Brazil's primary mineral wealth source. The area covers most of the country's eastern, southern, and central portions, including cliffs, flat-topped plateaus, ravines, rolling hills, and rock outcrops.
Brazilian Highlands: Brazilian or Paraná Plateau
The Brazilian Highlands (Planalto Central), or Brazilian or Paraná Plateau, is a vast eroded plateau region covering most of Brazil's eastern, southern, and central portions, mainly in Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Goiás, and Mato Grosso states.
The rugged highlands include cliffs, flat-topped plateaus, ravines, rolling hills, and rock outcrops. The region covers approximately half of the country's land area, or some 4,500,000 sq km (1,737,000 sq mi).
The region is the primary source of the nation's abundant mineral wealth. In addition, most of Brazil's population (190 million as of the 2010 census) lives in the highlands or the narrow coastal region immediately adjacent to it.
Ancient basaltic lava flows gave birth to much of the region. However, there is now no seismic or volcanic activity. Erosion has also significantly shaped the Brazilian Highlands, forming extensive sedimentary deposits and wearing down the mountains.
Brazil's physical features can be grouped into five main physiographic divisions.
The Amazon Lowlands essentially correspond to the area of the Amazon Basin in the northwestern and central portions of Brazil.
The Brazilian Highlands make up more than half of Brazil's landmass. This vast eroded plateau region covers most of the country's eastern, southern, and central portions.
The Pantanal stretches across portions of the central-western border between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, encompassing the world's largest tropical wetland area.
The Coastal or Atlantic Lowlands is a narrow strip of land that runs along the eastern edge of Brazil and comprises only a small portion of its territory.
The Brazilian Highlands are recognized for their incredible diversity. Within the region are several different biomes, vastly different climatic conditions, many soil types and thousands of animal and plant species.
Due to their size and diversity, the Brazilian Highlands are usually divided into three main areas:
The Atlantic Plateau: the largest and most populous of the Highland divisions, extends along Brazil's eastern coast. It is characterized by a series of mountain ranges, including the Serra do Mar and the Serra da Mantiqueira. Home to the largest cities in Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it was once almost entirely covered by the Atlantic Forest, one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world, of which only 7.3% remains.
The Central Plateau: occupying Brazil's interior, is characterized by a series of plateaus, including the Mato Grosso Plateau and the Paraná Plateau. Approximately 85% was once covered by cerrado vegetation, of which only a small amount remains intact. The Central Plateau is a major agricultural, mining, and cattle ranching center.
The Southern Plateau: is located in southern Brazil and is characterized by a series of rolling hills and fertile soils. The Atlantic Forest also covered large portions of this region, while araucaria highland forest and cerrado grasslands comprised much of the rest. The Southern Plateau is a major center of agriculture and wine production in Brazil.
In addition to the plateau regions, a massive escarpment marks the eastern edge of the Brazilian Highlands, extending along the coast for some 2,600 km (1,600 mi) and forming mountain ranges that average approximately 800 m (2,600 ft) in elevation. Some of the most important mountain ranges are:
The highest elevations in the Brazilian Highlands are in two areas: the first is a series of ridges less than 500 km (300 mi) from the eastern coast, and the second is in the environs of Brasília and the border dividing Bahia state from Tocantins and Goiás. The highest point is the Pico da Bandeira in the Serra do Caparaó at 2,891 m (9,485 ft).