Venezuela: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Venezuela: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Fri, 08/12/2022 - 21:32
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Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the north and northeast. The country has four distinct geographical regions: the Venezuelan Highlands, the Maracaibo Lowlands, the Orinoco Plains, and the Guiana Highlands.

Geography of Venezuela

Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the north and northeast.

Shaped roughly like an inverted triangle, the country's northern coastline spans about 2,800 km (1,700 mi). Venezuela also maintains jurisdiction over a number of islands in the Caribbean Sea.

Venezuela's border with Guyana is in the east, the border with Brazil is in the south and the border with Colombia is in the west and southwest.

The majority of Venezuela’s major cities are located along the coastline or near major watersheds. However, much of the vast Llanos and Guiana Highlands remain largely unpopulated.

With 1,386 bird species, 365 amphibian species, 1,735 fish species, 376 mammal species, 419 reptile species, and an estimated 30,000 vascular plant species, Venezuela is known as one of the world's megadiverse countries.

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 Venezuela

Topography

Venezuela’s topography can be divided into three broad elevational divisions.

  • Lowland plains: from sea level to elevations of approximately 500 m (1,640 ft)

  • Interior forested uplands: scattered peaks may rise up to 2,000 m (6,560 ft)

  • Mountains: elevations may reach up to 5,000 m (16,400 ft)

Seven physiographic regions can be found within them:

  • the islands and coastal plains in the north, including the Orinoco Delta in the northeast

  • the coastal mountain system (with its Coastal and Interior ranges) in the north

  • the Lake Maracaibo Lowlands in the northwest

  • the Mérida and Perijá ranges of the Andes Mountains in the northwest

  • the northwestern valleys and hill ranges also known as the Segovia Highlands

  • the Llanos in the center of the country

  • the Guiana Highlands in the south

Relief map of Venezuela

Relief map of Venezuela

Geographical Regions

The country has four distinct geographical regions: the Venezuelan Highlands, the Maracaibo Lowlands, the Orinoco Plains, and the Guiana Highlands.

Venezuelan Highlands (Andes)

The Venezuelan Highlands are the northeasternmost extension of the Andes Mountains and border the Caribbean Sea. Physiographically, the Segovia Highlands, northwest of Barquisimeto, and the coastal ranges may also be considered parts of the Andes chain.

The highest point in the country is Pico Bolivar at 4,978 m (16,332 ft). Its peak is permanently covered in snow. A large portion of the population lives in the valleys between the mountains.

Maracaibo Lowlands

The Maracaibo Lowlands region in the northwest is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is quite flat. Lake Maracaibo dominates the region which is known for its oil fields.

Orinoco Plains (Los Llanos)

The Orinoco Plains is a lowland grassland region in central Venezuela, known as Los Llanos, with elevations that never exceed 200 m (656 ft). The Orinoco River is a well-known feature of the area and is the most important river in Venezuela.

Guiana Highlands

The Guiana Highlands (or Guyana Highlands) proper is located in southern Venezuela, east of the Orinoco River. The Gran Sabana is found in this region. Featuring unique geography, the highlands extend into western Guyana and northern Brazil.

Map of the natural regions of Venezuela

Map of the natural regions of Venezuela

Natural Regions

Because of its natural structure, Venezuela can be divided into eight very distinct natural regions.

Cordillera de La Costa Region

The Cordillera de La Costa consists of two parallel ranges that run along the central and eastern portions of Venezuela's northern Caribbean coast, divided by a wide bay. The range is a northeastern extension of the Andes and is also known as the Maritime Andes. It is the fourth-largest natural region in Venezuela.

Orinoco Delta Region

The Orinoco Delta Region encompasses the vast delta of the Orinoco River. The fan-shaped delta hosts numerous distributaries called caños, which meander their way to the coast. The main distributary is the Rio Grande, which empties through the southeast portion of the delta. The second major distributary is Caño Manamo, which runs northward along the western edge of the delta.

Maracaibo Basin Region

The Maracaibo Basin is located in the northwestern corner of the country, between the high Andean ranges. Lake Maracaibo, a large shallow tidal estuary, is located near its center. The region is hydrocarbon-rich and is one of the main oil-producing regions of the country.

Guyana Region

This heavily forested plateau and low-mountain region, known as the Guyana Highlands, make up over half of the country. This is where the table-like mountains called tepuis are found as well as some of the world's most spectacular waterfalls, such as Angel Falls (the world's highest), Kaieteur Falls and Kuquenan Falls.

Insular Region

The Insular Region comprises all of the nation's islands and is formed by the state of Nueva Esparta and the Federal Dependencies. Nueva Esparta comprises Margarita Island, Coche Island, and the largely uninhabited Cubagua Island. The Federal Dependencies encompass other offshore islands.

Andean Region

The two branches of the Venezuelan Andes, which include the country’s highest peaks, are the northeastern extensions of the Colombian Andes’ Cordillera Oriental.

The eastern branch, the Cordillera de Mérida, extends from the border with Colombia to the Venezuelan state of Lara and divides the Maracaibo Basin from the Orinoco Basin.

The western branch, known as the Perijá Mountains (Sierra de Perijá or Serranía de Los Motilones), is a much smaller section that runs along the border with Colombia at the western extreme of the Venezuelan state of Zulia.

Los Llanos Region

Along the course of the Orinoco River lie the Llanos, a relatively level region of savannas and tropical rainforests. From the Andean foothills to the Orinoco Delta, the Llanos extend for approximately 1,300 km (800 mi).

Lara-Falcón Highlands Region

The Lara-Falcón Formation or Coriano system Is a hilly and semi-mountainous area in northwest Venezuela. It consists mostly of east-west running ridges, with the exception of the Sierra de Siruma or Empalado which run north-south. The coastal plain of the region contains Venezuela's only desert, the Médanos de Coro on the Paraguaná Peninsula.

Ecological Regions

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

Venezuela 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 dry broadleaf forests

  • Apure-Villavicencio dry forests

  • Lara-Falcón dry forests

  • Maracaibo dry forests

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands

Flooded grasslands and savannas

Montane grasslands and shrublands

  • Cordillera de Merida páramo

Deserts and xeric shrublands

Mangroves

  • Coastal Venezuelan mangroves

  • Guianan mangroves

Bodies of Water

Major Rivers

  • Orinoco River

  • Río Negro

  • Caroni River

  • Apure River

  • Caura River

  • Meta River

  • Catatumbo River

  • Guárico River

  • Casiquiare River

  • Ventuari River

  • Churún River

  • Jasper Creek

  • Cuyuni River

Major Lakes

  • Lake Maracaibo

  • Lake Valencia

  • Lake Leopoldo

  • Guri Reservoir

  • Kettle Mucubají