Geography of Brazil
“Facts and information on the geography of Brazil – Geography of Brazil”
Much of Brazil’s appeal for travelers is the beautiful Brazilian geography, with its beautiful sandy beaches to the spectacular vistas and Amazon rainforest.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and is the fifth-largest country in the world after Russia, Canada, China, and the United States, the land mass of Brazil is actually bigger than continental United States (excluding Alaska).
It covers half the land mass of the South American continent and borders every country except Ecuador and Chile.
Brazil measures 4,395 kilometres (2,731 mi) from North to South and 4,319 kilometres (2,684 mi) from East to West, and its jagged coastline is 7,491 km (4,655 mi) long that borders the Atlantic Ocean.
Most of the country is situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Brazil consists of the Amazon rainforest in the north along with the Amazon river with its thousands of tributaries. The Central-west part of Brazil consist of a “cerrado” landscape or known as a tropical savanna and also the Pantanal is located here, a tropical wetland and the world’s largest wetland that consist of a maze of swamps and marshes
The central part of Brazil mainly consists of highlands, that consist of low mountains and plateaus. The coastal areas consist of thousands of kilometers of tropical beaches which feature mangroves, lagoons, and dunes, as well as numerous coral reefs. There is also a number of islands just off the coast of Brazil.
Brazil can be divided into five different geographical regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, South and Southeast. Each region consists of several states with a distinct landscape and topography.
This region is known as “O Norte” and also known as Amazonia. Seven states make up this sparsely populated region: Acre, Amapa, Amazonas, Para, Rondonia, Roraima, and Tocantins. The region’s largest cities are Manaus and Belem.
The North region of Brazil covers 45% of the national territory of Brazil and consists of mostly the Amazon rainforest, which features the Amazon river with its thousands of tributaries. The Amazon river is the world’s most extensive river system with a length of about 6,500 km (4,040 miles). It is also the world’s largest river in volume and contains one-fifth of all the freshwater on earth.
The North is sparsely populated and has the lowest demographic density in Brazil, with only 3.8 people per square km. Most of the population is centered in urban areas. The region is also home to many indigenous reservations throughout the Amazon.
The North region of Brazil geography also contains part of the Guiana Highlands with its eroded mountain formations and mesas to the far north of Brazil. The highest point in Brazil can be found in the far north of the state of Amazonas, Pico da Neblina 2,994 m (9,823 ft), which is near the border with Venezuela.
The Northeast Region of Brazil is where the first Portuguese settlements were set up when they first colonized Brazil. It consists of nine states: Maranhao, Piaui, Ceara, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe, and Bahia. The region’s largest cities are Salvador, Joao Pessoa, Fortaleza, and Recife.
The region covers 18% of the national territory of Brazil and is characterised by four different topographical zones: the zona da mata on the coast, the agreste, sertao and the Mid-north.
Zona da Mata
Along the coast from the state of Rio Grande do Norte to Bahia runs a strip of land known as the zona da mata. Most of the major cities of northeastern Brazil, including Recife, Salvador, Maceio, Aracaju and Joao Pessoa, are located in the zona da mata.
The Zona da Mata is the narrow coastal plain between the Atlantic Ocean and the dry agreste and sertao regions. This narrow plain is about 50-100 kilometers wide and very flat and low (below 100 metres in elevation) and sits below the northeastern edge of the Brazilian Highlands. The climate here is tropical that is typically hot, humid and wet.
Originally, the region once was covered by the Atlantic Rainforest. Today, very little of the original Atlantic Rainforest vegetation remains and most of the land is used for sugar cane and citrus plantations because of its fertile land.
Further inland and just west of the zona da mata begins a transition zone of semi-fertile land called the agreste. This narrow zone is located in the states of Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia.
This region is mostly hilly with the hills becoming higher in the south. The land here is devoted to cattle-raising and to growing of fruits. It is a transitional zone between the coastal forest zona da mata and the semi-arid highlands of the interior, known as the sertao.
Sertao – hinterlands
A semi-arid region known as the sertao consists mainly of low uplands that form part of the Brazilian Highlands and range between 200 and 500 meters above sea level, with higher elevations found on the eastern edge in the Planalto da Borborema, where it merges into a sub-humid region known as agreste. In the north, the sertao extends to the northern coastal plains of Rio Grande Do Norte state, while in the south it fades out into the northern part of Minas Gerais.
The Sao Francisco River with a length of 2,896 km (1,800 miles) runs through the sertao region and is the largest river running through the Northeast region. The river starts in the Canastra mountain range in the central-western part of the state of Minas Gerais. It flows generally north through the sertao region of five states and turns east to form the border between Bahia on the right bank and the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas on the left one. After that, it forms the boundary between the states of Alagoas and Sergipe and washes into the Atlantic Ocean.
Meio Norte Nordestino (Northeast Mid North)
The Mid-North is also one of the sub-regions of Northeast Brazil. It is geographically the most western of the Northeast and encompasses the entire state of Maranhao and covers half of the western part of the state of Piaui.
The Mid-North is a transitional area between the high rainforest region of the Amazon and he semi arid region of sertao.
The central-west region of Brazil geography covers 19% of the national territory of Brazil and consists of the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, and the Distrito Federal (Federal District), where Brazil’s national capital, Brasilia is located.
A state with a varied landscape that features a flat landscape, alternating great chapadas and plain areas, Mato Grosso presents three different ecosystems: Cerrado, Pantanal and the Amazon Rainforest.
The very northern part of the states features the Amazon rainforest. The central portion of the state forms the central Brazilian plateau which features a landscape of plateaus, cliffs, canyons and open pasture and ranging and altitudes between 400 and 800 meters.
There we can find the Chapada dos Guimaraes, a scenery of unique beauty formed by sandy mountains that seem to have been cut, reminding one of a city made of rocks. There are many cliffs, canyons, and beautiful waterfalls.
In the southern part of the state are the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, is the habitat for a variety of aquatic plants, many animal species and a diverse variety of birds. The Pantanal also extend further south into Mato Grosso do Sul.
Mato Grosso do Sul
Located to the south of Mato Grosso is Mato Grosso do Sul. The Pantanal is located in the northern and western part of the state and covers 12 municipalities within this state and spills over into the bordering countries of Bolivia and Paraguay. The Pantanal has an enormous variety of flora and fauna, with forests, natural sand banks, savannahs, open pasture, fields and bushes.
The eastern part of the state features a cerrado landscape, which is characterized by extensive savanna formations crossed by gallery forests and stream valleys. Cerrado includes various types of vegetation.
The state of Goias, along with the Brazilian Federal District are located in the central highlands of Brazil called the Planalto Central. This area features a landscape of plateaus, chapadoes, plains, depressions and valleys. Goias is covered with a woodland savanna known in Brazil as cerrado, that is typically a hot climate and semi-humid.
The area features large plateaus that are vast and have an almost level surface of which stands between 750 and 900 meters in elevation and forms the divide between three of Brazil’s largest river systems: to the south Goias is drained by the Paranaiba River, a tributary of the Parana River; to the east it is drained by tributaries of the Sao Francisco River; and northward the state is drained by the Araguaia River and the Tocantins River and their tributaries.
The highest altitudes are located on the east and north, in the Chapada dos (1,784 meters), in the Crystal Mountain (1,250 meters) and in the Pyrenees Mountain (1,395 meters). The lower elevations occur especially in the western state.
The southeast region of Brazil covers 11% of the national territory of Brazil and consists of the states of Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The region is mainly characterised by two distinct landscapes: the hot and humid coastal plain with its beautiful beaches, and the Atlantic plateau further inland with an average elevation of 500-900 meters (1640-2,950 feet).
This upland is separated from the coast by the Serra do Mar mountain range that runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast from the state of Espirito Santo to southern Santa Catarina, which is home to some of Brazil’s tallest peaks. The mountains drop down to the coast in a steep slope and forms the largest remaining continuous area of the Atlantic rain forest, which once covered the entire region.
The coastal mountains are characterised by large granite and quartz outcrops such as the famous Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) in Rio de Janeiro.
The South region of Brazil is the smallest of Brazil’s regions, accounting for only 7 percent of the national territory. Brazil’s south consists of the states of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Southern Brazil is the only region in Brazil that has subtropical or temperate climate and it can snow in the mountain ranges.
The South region of Brazil geography is characterised by an inland plateau and low mountains that form the southern end of the Serra do Mar coastal mountain range. Southern Brazil was once covered by dense pine forests, but the inland plateau is today largely deforested and has become a center for an agro-industry and is a top producer in grain for Brazil.
Brazil’s most southern state, Rio Grande do Sul, also shares the pampa, a vast grass-covered plain that extends into Uruguay and Argentina. The region is an important cattle-raising region.
The south is home to one of Brazil’s most spectacular natural wonders, the Iguacu Falls. Also, the Itaipu Dam is located here, which is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world in terms of annual generation capacity of electricity.
Geography of Brazil Facts
Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean
10 00 S, 55 00 W
total: 8,514,877 sq km
country comparison to the world: 5
land: 8,459,417 sq km
water: 55,460 sq km
total: 16,885 km
border countries: Argentina 1,261 km, Bolivia 3,423 km, Colombia 1,644 km, French Guiana 730 km, Guyana 1,606 km, Paraguay 1,365 km, Peru 2,995 km, Suriname 593 km, Uruguay 1,068 km, Venezuela 2,200 km
mostly tropical, but subtropical in the south
mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and narrow coastal belt
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico da Neblina 2,994 m
arable land: 6.93%
permanent crops: 0.89%
other: 92.18% (2005)
bauxite, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, petroleum, hydropower, timber