Brazil: Natural Landscape

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Brazil: Natural Landscape

Thu, 12/30/2021 - 19:42
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Brazil is South America's largest country, occupying half of its landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world and is regarded as the most biodiverse country on Earth. The country is conventionally divided into five geographic regions corresponding to its significant landforms and biomes.

The Natural Landscape of Brazil

Brazil is located in the eastern part of South America and is the largest country on the continent, occupying half of its landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world and the seventh most populous.

The Atlantic Ocean forms Brazil's approximately 7,491 km (4,655 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's 26 states and Federal District are conventionally divided into five geographic regions corresponding to the country's significant landforms and biomes.


Brazil is considered 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 vascular plant species, Brazil is one of 17 megadiverse countries.


Conservation efforts in Brazil are of global significance due to the country's vast and diverse natural resources, including the Amazon Rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands, the Atlantic Forest, and a myriad of unique species.

Brazil is home to a significant portion of the world's biodiversity, making it crucial to protect these ecosystems. However, conservation in Brazil faces a range of challenges and opportunities.

Challenges to conservation in Brazil include ongoing deforestation, illegal activities in protected areas, land conflicts, and the need for improved enforcement of environmental regulations.

Economic pressures, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development sometimes conflict with conservation goals. Nonetheless, Brazil's conservation community, including government agencies, NGOs, indigenous groups, and international partners, continue to work together to address these challenges and protect the country's invaluable natural heritage.


Dominated by equatorial and tropical climates, northern and central Brazil receives frequent rainfall and experiences higher temperatures. Annual precipitation is approximately 1,000 - 1,800 mm (40 - 70 in), with much heavier amounts in parts of the Amazon Basin.

Meanwhile, southern Brazil is characterized by a humid subtropical climate. Notably, northeastern Brazil exhibits a semiarid environment, receiving less than 700 mm (28 in) per year of rain.

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Natural Geography of Brazil

Major Landforms

Brazil's physical features can be grouped into five main physiographic divisions.

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. This region covers the northern part of Brazil and the southern half of Venezuela, 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 featuring waterfalls and whitewater 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) at Mount Roraima, where the borders of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil meet.

Amazon Lowlands

The Amazon lowlands essentially correspond to the area of the Amazon Basin. The lowlands are broadest along the base of the Andes and then narrow toward the east, where a 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. In addition, shallow oxbow lakes and wetlands are found throughout the region.

Brazilian Highlands

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.

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


The Pantanal is a natural region stretching across portions of the border between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, encompassing the world's largest tropical wetland area.

An extension of the Gran Chaco plain, this swampland and marsh region is located in northwestern Mato Grosso do Sul state and southern Mato Grosso state.

Coastal (Atlantic) Lowlands

The Coastal or Atlantic Lowlands comprise a 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. In addition, 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

Natural Regions / Biomes

Brazil's territory comprises six terrestrial biomes and one marine biome.

Biomes are natural regions distinguished by geography, climate, and associated flora and fauna.

These natural 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.

As the most extensive forest formation on the planet, 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 forests, lowland and montane forests, bamboo and palm forests, savanna, sandy heath, and alpine tundra.

This biome is considered one of the most critical areas on Earth. It represents half of the world's rainforest and is home to one-third of Earth's species. It is also an essential 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 mainly in small degraded patches and protected areas.

This tropical forest is found in Brazil's coastal region; therefore, it is characterized by humid winds coming from the sea and steep reliefs.

It comprises various ecosystems because of multiple altitudes, latitudes, and climates ranging from semideciduous seasonal forests to open mountain fields and Araucaria forests in the south.


The Caatinga is a semiarid biome and South America's largest dry forest region. 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.


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 its 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, dramatically changing Brazilian land use.


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 subtropical and temperate climates with four well-characterized seasons. Grasslands, with sparse shrub and tree formations, are the dominant vegetation.


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

Periods of inundation and desiccation alternate annually. Despite this, the area supports 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

Mountain Ranges

Brazil is a vast country with diverse geography, but it is primarily known for its extensive lowland areas and the Amazon Rainforest. While Brazil does not have extensive mountain ranges like the Andes in South America, it does have some notable mountainous regions.

Brazil's mountains are predominantly found in the southeastern and southern regions of the country. These ranges include cliffs, dense rainforests, and high-altitude plateaus. The mountains contribute to the country's rich biodiversity, with many of them forming part of the Atlantic Forest, a critically important biome.

See more: Mountain Ranges of Brazil

Islands and Archipelagos

The islands and archipelagos of Brazil are diverse, ranging from the remote and uninhabited Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago to the popular tourist destination of Fernando de Noronha. Brazil's islands offer an array of natural wonders and cultural treasures.

See more: Islands and Archipelagos of Brazil

Bodies of Water

Brazil has many water bodies that span its vast and diverse natural landscape. The country offers a remarkable range of aquatic environments, from mighty rivers and expansive wetlands to breathtaking waterfalls and stunning coastal areas.

See more: Water Bodies of Brazil

Administrative Divisions

Brazil comprises 26 states and one federal district. The states are subdivided into municipalities. In addition, the states are conventionally divided among five regions based on geographic location.

See more: Cultural Landscape of Brazil

Ecological Regions

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

Brazil 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

  • Atlantic dry forests

  • Chiquitano dry forests

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands

Flooded grasslands and savannas

Deserts and xeric shrublands

  • Caatinga

  • Saint Peter and Saint Paul rocks


  • Amapá mangroves

  • Bahia mangroves

  • Ilha Grande mangroves

  • Pará mangroves

  • Rio Piranhas mangroves

  • Rio São Francisco mangroves

Terrestrial biomes Distribution Map of Brazil

Terrestrial biomes distribution Map of Brazil