Guyana: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Guyana: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Thu, 08/25/2022 - 18:00
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Guyana is located in northeastern South America with an Atlantic Ocean coastline, much of which is below sea level at high tide. Sometimes classified as part of the Caribbean region, Guyana can be divided into geographic zones that include a coastal plain, a white sand belt, and interior highlands.

Geography of Guyana

The country of Guyana, formerly British Guiana, is located in northeastern South America with an Atlantic Ocean coastline of approximately 459 km (285 mi). Its national borders are with Suriname in the east, Venezuela in the west, and Brazil in both the west and south.

It is the third-smallest country on the South American continent, with an area of 214,970 sq km (83,000 sq mi).

Guayana is a part of the region known as "The Guianas" which also includes Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana.

Guyana can be considered part of the Caribbean South America subregion, along with the other Caribbean Sea boundary nations and territories of South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, and French Guiana.

Guyana has a tropical climate with almost uniformly high temperatures and humidity. Seasonal variations in temperature are slight, particularly along the coast. Rainfall is generally high, with the heaviest in the north and the lightest in the south and interior.

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 Guyana

Geographic Zones

Guyana can be divided into three main geographic regions or zones:

  • the coastal plain

  • the white sand belt

  • the interior highlands

Coastal Plain

The coastal plain extends along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Extending only 5 - 6 km (3 - 4 mi) on average and 16 km (10 mi) at its widest, this narrow plain is home to more than 90% of the country's population.

A 450 km (280 mi) seawall runs along most of Guyana's coastline, much of which is below sea level at high tide. The seawall was constructed to protect settlements in the coastal areas, including the capital city of Georgetown.

Much of the area has been reclaimed from the sea utilizing canals and dikes. Because much of the coastal plain floods at high tide, efforts to dam and drain this area have gone on since the 18th century.

The plain predominantly consists of alluvial mud swept out to sea by the Amazon River in the south, carried north by the ocean currents, and deposited on the shore. This mud overlays the white sands and clays deposited by erosion activity of the interior bedrock that was carried toward the ocean by Guyana's rivers.

The coast has no well-defined shoreline or sandy beaches. Seaward from the vegetation line is a region of mud flats, shallow water, and sandbars.

These shallow waters can be a major impediment to shipping as vessels often need to partially unload their cargo to reach the docks at Georgetown and New Amsterdam.

White Sand Belt

Inland from the coastal plain is an area of low sandy hills interspersed with rocky outcroppings. A line of swamps forms a barrier between these interior hills and the coastal plain. This region features undulating land that gradually rises from hills that average heights of 15 m (50 ft) in the east, nearest the coast, to 120 m (400 ft) in the west.

This white sand belt supports a dense hardwood forest. However, this sandy area cannot support crops. Without the forest, erosion would be rapid and severe. Most of Guyana's reserves of bauxite, gold, and diamonds are found in this region.

A small savanna region in the east lies about 100 km (60 mi) from the coast and is surrounded by a low plateau which is partly overlaid by the white sands belt. The plateau forms most of the country’s center and is penetrated by igneous rock intrusions that cause the numerous rapids of Guyana’s rivers.

Interior Highlands

The interior highlands are the largest of Guyana's geographical regions. The region consists of a series of plateaus, flat-topped mountains, and savannahs that extend from the white sand belt to the country's southern borders.

Much of this region consists of grassland. The largest expanse of grassland is the Rupununi Savannah in southern Guyana which extends into Venezuela and Brazil.

    The Pacaraima Mountains, along with Mount Roraima on the Brazil-Guyana-Venezuela tripoint border, dominate the western part of the interior highlands.

    To the south lies the Kaieteurian Plateau, the site of the spectacular Kaieteur Falls, and the Kanuku Mountains.

    Further south, the Acarai Mountains are situated along the border with Brazil.

    Some of Guyana's highest peaks are:

    • Mount Ayanganna (2,042 m or 6,699 ft)

    • Monte Caburaí (1,465 m or 4,806 ft)

    • Mount Roraima (2,772 m or 9,094 ft)

    Relief map of Guyana

    Relief map of Guyana

    Bodies of Water

    Guyana’s four main rivers all flow from the south and empty into the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern section of the coast.

    • Essequibo River: 1,010 km (628 mi)

    • the Courentyne River: 724 km (450 mi), forms the border with Suriname

    • the Berbice River: 595 km (370 mi)

    • the Demerara River: 346 km (215 mi)

    Natural Regions of Guyana

    Guyana can be divided into four natural regions:

    • a narrow and fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast (low coastal plain) where most of the population lives

    • a white sand belt further inland (hilly sand and clay region), containing most of Guyana’s mineral deposits

    • the dense rainforests (forested highland region) in the middle of the country

    • the grassy flat savanna in the south and the larger interior highlands (interior savanna) consisting mostly of mountains that gradually rise to the Brazilian border

    Ecological Regions

    The following is a list of ecoregions in Guyana, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

    Guyana is in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.

    Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

    Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands

    Mangroves

    • Guianan mangroves

    Vegetation map of Guyana

    Vegetation map of Guyana