Brazil is a predominantly tropical country famous for its extensive Amazon lowlands; however, highlands cover most of the national territory. Brazil’s physical features can be grouped into five main physiographic divisions: the Guiana Highlands in the North, the Amazon lowlands, the Pantanal in the Central-West, the Brazilian Highlands (including the extensive coastal ranges), and the coastal lowlands.
Brazil shares the rugged Guiana Highlands with Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Forested mesas and mountain ranges, scenic waterfalls, and white-water rivers characterize the area. The highest point in Brazil is Neblina Peak, which reaches 9,888 feet (3,014 metres) along the Venezuelan border in the Serra do Imeri. The Serra da Pacaraima, farther east, rises to 9,094 feet (2,772 metres) at Mount Roraima, where the borders of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil meet. The less rugged Acaraí and Tumuc-Humac (Tumucumaque) ranges border on the Guianas.
The Amazon lowlands are widest along the eastern base of the Andes. They narrow toward the east until, downstream of Manaus, only a narrow ribbon of annually flooded plains (várzeas) separates the Guiana Highlands to the north from the Brazilian Highlands to the south. The várzeas fan out again as the watercourse approaches the Atlantic, but no delta extends into the ocean. The basin’s most widespread topographical features are gently undulating hills called (“solid ground”), composed of layers of alluvial soil that were deposited as much as 2.5 million years ago and subsequently uplifted to positions above flood level. Shallow oxbow lakes and wetlands are found throughout the region.
The immense Pantanal, an extension of the Gran Chaco plain, is a region of swamps and marshes in northwestern Mato Grosso do Sul and southern Mato Grosso states and, to a lesser extent, in northern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia; it is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the world, covering some 54,000 square miles (140,000 square km). The Pantanal is dissected by the effluents of the upper Paraguay River, which overflows its banks during the rainy season, inundating all but the tops of scattered levees and low hills.
The Brazilian Highlands make up more than half of the country’s landmass and are the main source of the nation’s abundant mineral wealth. In Brazil the highlands are often called the Planalto Central (Central Highlands, or Central Plateau), but that term may be limited to the part of the highlands around Brasília and Goiás. The rugged highlands include steep cliffs, flat-topped plateaus, ravines, rolling hills, and rock outcrops; however, the region’s maximum elevations are below 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). Its highest elevations are in two areas: the first along a series of ridges less than 300 miles (500 km) from the eastern coast, and the second in the environs of Brasília and the border dividing Bahia state from Tocantins and Goiás. The highlands to the north and west of Goiás extend for some 600 miles (1,000 km) until they descend into the Amazon lowlands. A massive escarpment marks the eastern edge of the Brazilian Highlands, extending along the coast for some 1,600 miles (2,600 km) and forming mountain ranges that average approximately 2,600 feet (800 metres) in elevation, with many individual peaks rising above 7,000 feet (about 2,100 metres).
The major ranges of the northeastern highlands include the Serra Grande, which skirts the Piauí-Ceará border; the Araripe Upland (Chapado Araripe) in Pernambuco state; and the Diamantina Upland (Chapada Diamantina) in Bahia. The Serra do Espinhaço extends from central Minas Gerais into southern Bahia, where Almas Peak reaches 6,070 feet (1,850 metres). The Serra Geral de Goiás separates the states of Goiás and Tocantins to the west from Bahia to the east. Goiás state also includes some of the more elevated parts of the Planalto Central, the Serra dos Pirineus, and the Serra Dourada. The ranges and plateaus farther north and west, which are neither as elevated nor as deeply dissected as their eastern counterparts, include the mineral-rich Serra dos Carajás in eastern Pará state, the Serra do Cachimbo, mainly in southwestern Pará, and the Parecis Upland (Chapada dos Parecis), which stretches between Rondônia and Mato Grosso. Other highland regions of Mato Grosso state are sometimes collectively designated the Mato Grosso Plateau.
The Serra do Mar, averaging some 3,000 feet (1,000 metres) above sea level, is the largest segment of the escarpment along the Atlantic coast. The range extends from southeastern Minas Gerais to eastern Paraná; in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, where the range is also known as the Serra dos Orgãos, it presents an almost sheer face to the sea and creates the outcrops of Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar) and Gávea and a string of small islands. The Serra da Mantiqueira, located just north of the Serra do Mar but still somewhat near the coast, marches southward from the Serra do Espinhaço; in southern Minas Gerais the Mantiqueira range reaches 9,143 feet (2,787 metres) at Agulhas Negras Peak on the Rio de Janeiro state border and 9,482 feet (2,890 metres) at Bandeira Peak, near the Serra dos Aimorés, which extends along the Minas Gerais–Espírito Santo border. A series of ridges southwest of the Serra do Mar is known as the Serra de Botucatu in São Paulo state and the Serra Geral from Paraná southward. The Iguaçu River in southwestern Paraná tumbles over a steep rim of diabase rock to form the spectacular Iguaçu Falls. Guaíra Falls on the Paraná River were a similar attraction until 1982, when the huge hydroelectric dam at Itaipú was completed and they were submerged. "Brazil" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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