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South America


With an area of 3,286,487 sq. mi (8,511,965 sq. km), Brazil is by far the largest country in South America, taking up almost half of the land area of the continent. It can be divided into two major geographical regions: the highlands, which include the Guiana Highlands South America. Illustration by Hans & Cassidy. Courtesy of Gale Group. in the far north and the Brazilian Highlands in the center and southeast, and the Amazon basin.

The highlands mostly have the appearance of flat tablelands which are cut here and there by deep rifts and clefts which drain them; these steep river valleys are often inaccessible. In some places the highlands have been shaped by erosion so that their surfaces are rounded and hill-like, or even give the appearance of mountain peaks. Along the coast the plateaus plummet steeply to the ocean to form great cliffs, which can be as high as 7,000-8,000 ft (2,100-2,400 m). Except for the far north of Brazil, there are no coastal plains.

The lowlands of Brazil are in the vast Amazon basin, which is mostly covered with dense tropical rain forest—the most enormous tract of unbroken rainforest in the world. The many rivers and tributaries which water the region create large marshes in places. The Amazon is home to many indigenous peoples and as yet uncounted species of animals and plants found no where else in the world. The Amazon rainforest is one of the world's greatest resources; both as a natural wonder and as a source of medicinal and edible plants and exotic woods.

Brazil also has many island territories, most of which, however, are quite small; the largest, called Fernando de Noronha, has an area of 10 sq. mi (26 sq. km). The majority of the remaining islands are only seasonally inhabited.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binarySouth America - The Highlands And Plateaus, The Andes, The Amazon Basin, The Climate, Venezuela, Ecuador - The continent, The countries, Uruguay