Suriname: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Suriname: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 15:17
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Suriname is located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America and is its smallest sovereign state. The geography of Suriname consists of rainforests, savanna, and coastal swamps. Its forest cover is approximately 90%, the highest of any nation in the world.

Geography of Suriname

Suriname is located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America and is bordered by Guyana to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Its coastline with the Atlantic Ocean in the north extends approximately 386 km (239 mi).

Suriname is South America's smallest sovereign state, at just under 165,000 sq km (64,000 sq mi). The country is predominantly covered by tropical rainforests.

Formerly "Dutch Guiana," Suriname is a part of the region known as "The Guianas" which also includes Guyana and French Guiana.

Suriname is sometimes considered part of the "Caribbean South America" subregion, along with the other Caribbean Sea boundary nations and territories of South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and French Guiana, because the United Nations granted them an area of the sea.

On the other hand, because the country's official language is Dutch, Suriname is sometimes not considered a "truly Latin American" country.

The capital city, Paramaribo, is the main urban area. The city accounts for nearly half of the country's population and most of its urban residents. Most municipalities are located within the capital's metropolitan area or along the densely populated coastline.

Suriname ranks 42nd in the world in terms of biodiversity, providing a habitat for approximately 696 bird species, 114 amphibian species, 207 fish species, 156 mammal species, 156 reptile species, and 5,100 vascular plant species.

At approximately 15 million ha (37 million acres), Suriname's forest cover is approximately 90%, the highest of any nation in the world.

Suriname has a tropical climate and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. There are two wet seasons: from December to early February and from late April to mid-August.

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Border Disputes

Suriname is involved in territorial disputes with both Guyana and French Guiana. Its maritime boundary with Guyana has long been disputed as well.

Suriname claims about 15,000 sq km (5,800 sq mi) between two tributaries of the Courantyne River in southern Guyana and it also claims approximately 13,000 sq km (5,000 sq mi) between the Litani and Maroni rivers in the southwest corner of French Guiana.

Map of Suriname illustrating disputed border territories

Map of Suriname illustrating disputed border territories

The Natural and Geographic Landscape of Suriname

Geographic Regions

The geographic landscape of Suriname consists of rainforests, savanna, coastal swamps, and the two main mountain ranges: the Bakhuis and Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains.

The country is situated on the Guiana Shield, one of the three cratons of the South American Plate. It can be divided into two main geographic regions:

  • the northern, lowland coastal plain

  • the southern, tropical rainforest and savanna along the border with Brazil

Northern Coastal Plain

The coastal plain is flat and sometimes as much as 1.5 m (5 ft) below sea level, necessitating a system of sea defenses. The soils of the coastal plain are relatively fertile.

The narrow coastal zone, approximately 386 km (239 mi) in width, consists of sandbanks and mudbanks. This sediment was deposited by the southern equatorial currents from the area surrounding the mouth of the Amazon River, which is located on the Brazilian coast to the south.

Further inland and south of the mudbanks, the "New Coastal Plain" begins, which was also formed from sand and clay from the mouth of the Amazon. This region consists of clay swampland in which peat has formed and is traversed by sandy ridges that run parallel to the coast.

South of the New Coastal Plain is the "Old Coastal Plain" which consists mostly of fine clays and sands. This Old Coastal Plain contains a variety of topographies, including old ridges, clay flats, and swamps.

Southern Rainforest and Savanna

South of the Old Coastal Plain is a forest belt, 48 - 72 km (30 - 45 mi) wide, interspersed with grassy savannas.

In the southwest, near the Brazilian border, lies the Sipaliwini Plain which is another savanna area.

Even farther to the south, bordering Brazil is an area consisting largely of a central mountain range along with its various branches and scattered hilly areas. A vast tropical rainforest covers these highlands.

Protected Areas

In the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cited for its unspoiled rainforest biodiversity.

Map of Suriname

CIA Map of Suriname

Bodies of Water

Rivers

Suriname's principal rivers flow northward into the Atlantic Ocean. They include:

  • Courantyne River: forms part of the border with Guyana in the west

  • Lawa River / Maroni (Marowijne) River: forms part of the border with French Guiana in the east

  • Tapanahoni (Tapanahony) River

  • Coppename River

  • Saramacca River

  • Nickerie River

  • Commewijne River

  • Suriname River

Lakes

  • Brokopondo Reservoir

  • Bigi Pan Lagoon

Landforms

Mountains

Juliana Top, located in the Wilhelmina Mountains, is the highest mountain in the country at 1,280 m (4,199 ft) asl. The main mountain ranges in Suriname include:

  • Bakhuis Mountains

  • Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains

  • De Hann and Wilhelmina Mountains

Map depicting the topography of Suriname

Map depicting the topography of Suriname

Natural Regions

Ecological Regions

Suriname is situated in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate. The country contains six terrestrial ecoregions.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests:

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands:

Mangroves:

  • Guianan mangroves

Suriname regions map

Suriname regions map