Brazil: Natural Landscape

Brazil: Natural Landscape

Thu, 12/30/2021 - 19:42
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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. The country is conventionally divided into five geographic regions corresponding to its major 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 7,400 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'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.


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 forest, lowland and montane forest, bamboo and palm forest, 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

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

Islands and Archipelagos

Notable Archipelagos

  • Alcatrazes Archipelago: a protected group of islands off the northern coast of the state of São Paulo

  • Cagarras Archipelago: an uninhabited archipelago and natural monument located off the coast of the city of Rio de Janeiro

  • Abrolhos Archipelago: a group of 5 small islands and coral reefs off the southern coast of the state of Bahia

  • Marajó Archipelago: a large fluvial-maritime archipelago located in the states of Amapá and Pará

  • Trindade and Martin Vaz Archipelagothe easternmost point of Brazilian territory, off the coast of Espírito Santo, consists of two main volcanic islands, several islets, and rocks.

  • Ilhabela Archipelago: a group of islands located off the coast of the state of São Paulo

  • Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago: a group of 15 islets located 990 km (620 mi) off the coast of the state of Rio Grande do Norte

  • Cairu Archipelago: a group of 25 islands off the coast of the state of Bahia, also known as the Archipelago of Tinharé and Boipeba

  • Fernando de Noronha: an archipelago of 21 islands and islets located 354 km (220 mi) off the coast of the state of Pernambuco

Notable Islands

  • Rocas Atoll: the only atoll in the South Atlantic Ocean, located approximately 145 km (90 mi) west of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago

  • Ilha Grande: a largely undeveloped island located off the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro

  • Ilha do Mosqueiro: an island near the south bank of the Pará River in Pará

  • Ilha do Campeche: an island located off the southeastern coast of the state of Santa Catarina, connected by two bridges to the capital city of Florianopolis

  • Bananal Island: a large river island formed from the bisection of the Araguaia River in the state of Tocantins

  • Ilha de Itaparica: an island located at the entrance of Todos os Santos Bay in the state of Bahia

  • Ilha do Cardoso: an island belonging to the city of Cananéia in São Paulo, protected by the Ilha do Cardoso State Park

  • Ilha do Mel: a small island and state park at the entrance to Paranaguá Bay on the southern coast of Paraná

Bodies of Water

  • Guaraní Aquifer: an underground reservoir and hydrogeological system

  • Guanabara Bay: a bay of the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Rio de Janeiro

  • Todos os Santos Bay: a bay of the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Bahia

  • São Marcos Bay: a bay of the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Maranhão

Major Rivers

Notable 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

Map illustrating the watersheds of Brazil

Map illustrating the watersheds 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.

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 Brazil's largest region, covering over 45% of its territory.

Northeast Region

Nine states make up the Northeast Region: 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 over 18% 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 approximately 19% of the national territory. Its main biome is the Cerrado.

Southeast Region

The Southeast Region consists of Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Its total 927,286 sq km (358,027 sq mi) corresponds to approximately 11% 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), just under 7% 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

Following is an alphabetical list of Brazil's 26 states and Federal District, followed by the state abbreviation and the state capital in parentheses:

  • Acre (AC) (Rio Branco)

  • Alagoas (AL) (Maceió)

  • Amapá (AP) (Macapá)

  • Amazonas (AM) (Manaus)

  • Bahia (BA) (Salvador)

  • Ceará (CE) (Fortaleza)

  • Distrito Federal (DF) Brasília

  • Espirito Santo (ES) (Vitória)

  • Goiás (GO) (Goiânia)

  • Maranhão (MA) (São Luís)

  • Mato Grosso (MT) (Cuiabá)

  • Mato Grosso do Sul (MS) (Campo Grande)

  • Minas Gerais (MG) (Belo Horizonte)

  • Pará (PA) (Belém)

  • Paraíba (PB) (João Pessoa)

  • Paraná (PR) (Curtiba)

  • Pernambuco (PE) (Recife)

  • Piauí (PI) (Teresina)

  • Rio de Janeiro (RJ) (Rio de Janeiro)

  • Rio Grande do Norte (RJ) (Natal)

  • Rio Grande do Sul (RS) (Porto Alegre)

  • Rondônia (RO) ((Porto Velho)

  • Roraima (RR) (Boa Vista)

  • Santa Catarina (SC) (Florianópolis)

  • São Paulo (SP) (São Paulo)

  • Sergipe (SE) (Aracaju)

  • Tocantins (TO) (Palmas)

Political map of the Geographic regional divisions of Brazil

Geographical regions of Brazil by population percentage

Geographical regions of Brazil by population percentage