Brazil: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Brazil: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Thu, 12/30/2021 - 19:42
Posted in:

Brazil is the largest country in South America and occupies half of its landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world and is regarded as the most biodiverse country on Earth. It is conventionally divided into five geographic regions that correspond generally to the country's major landforms and biomes.

Geography of Brazil

Brazil is the largest country in South America and occupies half of the continent's landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world.

The Atlantic Ocean forms Brazil's 7,400 km (4,700 mi) eastern coastline. It shares borders with French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela in the north; Colombia in the northwest; Peru in the west; Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina in the southwest; and Uruguay in the south.

Brazil is regarded as the most biodiverse country on Earth, possessing six terrestrial biomes or natural regions.

With 1,816 bird species, 1,141 amphibian species, 4,738 fish species, 693 mammal species, 847 reptile species, and 34,387 plant species, Brazil is one of 17 megadiverse countries.

Brazil's 26 states and the Federal District are conventionally divided into five geographic regions that correspond generally to the country's major landforms and biomes.

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

The Natural and Geographic Landscape of Brazil

Natural Regions / Biomes

Biomes are natural regions that can be distinguished by their geography, climate, and associated flora and fauna. The regions are classified according to their predominant vegetation.

Amazon (Amazônia)

The Amazon Biome contains the Amazon Rainforest, an area of tropical rainforest and other ecoregions that cover most of the Amazon Basin, along with some adjacent areas to the north and east.

Spanning 6.7 million sq km (2.6 million sq mi), the Amazon Biome is virtually unrivaled in scale and complexity. It contains blackwater and whitewater flooded forest, lowland and montane forest, bamboo and palm forest, savanna, sandy heath, and alpine tundra.

This biome is considered one of the most important areas on earth. It represents half of the world’s rainforest and is home to one-third of Earth's species. It is also a critical global storehouse of carbon. For those reasons, the Brazilian Amazon is one of the most studied biomes in the world.

Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica)

The Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) once stretched over much of Brazil's Atlantic coastline and covered parts of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Today, it survives largely in small degraded patches and protected areas.

This tropical forest is found in the coastal region of Brazil and therefore it is characterized by humid winds coming from the sea and steep reliefs. It is composed of a variety of ecosystems because of a high variety of altitudes, latitudes, and therefore, climates ranging from semideciduous seasonal forests to open mountain fields as well as Araucaria forests in the south.

Caatinga

The Caatinga is a semiarid biome and the largest dry forest region in South America. The only exclusively Brazilian biome, it is one of the richest dry forests in the world.

Consisting primarily of xeric shrubland and thorn forest, the biome covers the northeast portion of Brazil and occupies approximately 10% of the country’s area.

Cerrado

The Cerrado is the largest savanna region in South America and the largest ecoregion in the Americas. Biologically, it is the richest savanna in the world. As the second-largest Brazilian biome, it encompasses approximately 22% of the country's land area.

The Cerrado is dry and hot but far from lifeless, comprising a wide range of plant and animal biodiversity. It is described as the richest savanna in the world by the World Wildlife Fund.

Over the past 35 years, more than half of the biome's original area has been converted to agriculture, representing a dramatic change in Brazilian land use.

Pampa

The Pampa (Las Pampas) is a vast fertile lowland plain region. The biome represents just over 2% of brazil's national territory.

The biome lies within the South Temperate Zone and has both subtropical and temperate climates with four well-characterized seasons. Grasslands, with sparse shrub and tree formations, are the dominant vegetation.

Pantanal

The Pantanal is a natural region encompassing the world's largest tropical wetland area. This gigantic seasonal floodplain is also home to a staggering variety of plants and wildlife.

Periods of inundation and desiccation alternate annually. Despite this, the area supports both a rich agricultural and eco-tourism economy. It occupies just under 2% of Brazil's national territory.

Map of Brazil's main biomes

Map of Brazil's six main biomes

Major Landforms

Guiana Highlands

The Guiana Highlands is a heavily forested plateau and low-mountain region located north of the Amazon River and south of the Orinoco River. The region covers the northern part of Brazil as well as the southern half of Venezuela, all of the Guianas except for the low Atlantic coastal plain, and a portion of southeastern Colombia.

The region is characterized by forested mesas and mountain ranges that feature waterfalls and white-water rivers.

The highest point in Brazil is Neblina Peak at 3,014 m (9,888 ft) asl, near the Venezuelan border. The Serra da Pacaraima, farther east, rises to 2,772 m (9,094 ft) asl at Mount Roraima, where the borders of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil meet.

Amazon Lowlands

The Amazon lowlands largely correspond to the area of the Amazon Basin. The lowlands are widest along the eastern base of the Andes and then narrow toward the east where a narrow ribbon of annually flooded plains (várzeas) separates the Guiana Highlands to the north from the Brazilian Highlands to the south.

The basin’s most widespread topographical features are gently undulating hills. Shallow oxbow lakes and wetlands are found throughout the region.

Pantanal

The immense Pantanal, an extension of the Gran Chaco plain, is a region of swamps and marshes in northwestern Mato Grosso do Sul and southern Mato Grosso states. It is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the world.

Brazilian Highlands

The Brazilian Highlands make up more than half of the country's landmass. This extensive eroded plateau region covers most of the eastern, southern, and central portions of Brazil.

Located mainly in the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Goiás, and Mato Grosso; the rugged highlands include cliffs, flat-topped plateaus, ravines, rolling hills, and rock outcrops.

Coastal (Atlantic) Lowlands

The Coastal or Atlantic Lowlands comprise a very small portion of Brazil’s territory. These lowlands range up to 200 km (125 mi) wide in the north but become narrower in the northeast and disappear in parts of the southeast. The coastal plain widens again in the south.

Features of the lowlands include floodplains, swamps, lagoons, dunes, and long stretches of sandy beaches. Various deep harbors exist where the rocky slopes of the coastal ranges plunge directly into the ocean.

Topographical map of Brazil

Topographical map of Brazil

Bodies of Water

Major Rivers

Major Lakes

  • Paranoá Lake: Brasília

  • Lake Juturnaiba: Rio de Janeiro

  • Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon: Rio de Janeiro

  • Billings Reservoir: São Paulo

  • Guarapiranga Reservoir: São Paulo

  • Água Vermelha Dam: São Paulo

  • Sobradinho Dam: Bahia

  • Mundaú Lagoon: Alagoas

  • Lagoa dos Patos: Rio Grande do Sul

  • Mirim Lagoon: Rio Grande do Sul, shared by Uruguay

  • Marfil Lake: Mato Grosso, shared by Bolivia

  • La Gaiba Lake: Mato Grosso, shared by Bolivia

  • Mirim Lake: Mato Grosso, shared by Bolivia

  • Uberaba Lake: Mato Grosso, shared by Bolivia

  • Mandioré Lake: Mato Grosso, shared by Bolivia

Geographic Regions

Brazil's twenty-six states and the Federal District (Distrito Federal) are conventionally divided into five regions:

North Region

The equatorial North, also known as the Amazon (or Amazônia), includes, from west to east, the states of Rondônia, Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, Pará, Amapá, and Tocantins.

With 3,869,638 sq km (1,494,075 sq mi), the North is the country's largest region, covering 45.3% of Brazil's territory.

Northeast Region

The nine states that make up the Northeast Region are Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe.

The Northeast region, with 1,561,178 sq km (602,774 sq mi), covers 18.3 percent of the national territory. Its principal biome is the Caatinga.

Central-West Region

The Central-West Region (or Center-West Region) consists of the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as the Federal District, the site of Brasília, the national capital.

The region, with 1,612,077 sq km (622,426 sq mi), covers 18.9% of the national territory. Its main biome is the Cerrado.

Southeast Region

The Southeast Region consists of the four states of Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Its total area of 927,286 sq km (358,027 sq mi) corresponds to 10.9 percent of the national territory. Originally, the principal biome of the Southeast was the Atlantic Forest.

The region has the largest share of the country's population and is where most of Brazil's industrial production occurs. The state of São Paulo alone accounts for half of the country's industries.

South Region

The South Region consists of three states: Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina. The temperate region covers 577,214 sq km (222,863 sq mi), or 6.8 percent of the national territory.

In addition to the Atlantic Forest and pine woods, much of which was cleared in the post-World War II period, the South contains Pampa grasslands.

Brazil geographic regions map

Political map of the Geographic regional divisions of Brazil

Geographical regions of Brazil by population percentage

Geographical regions of Brazil by population percentage