2 South America Geographical Facts 1. South America is the 4th largest continent, covering about 12% of the earth’s total land area. 2. South America is the 5th most populous continent, with a population of around 387 million.
3 South America’s Physical Geography Physically, South America is dominated by two physical features:The Andes MountainsThe Amazon River Basin
4 The Andes MountainsThe Andes Mountains run down the western side of South America and provide important mineral resources for the countries they run through.The Andes are volcanic in origin so earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are problems for the area.Mt. Aconcagua, at 22,831 feet above sea level, is the tallest mountain of the Andes and also the highest point in the Western Hemisphere.
7 The Amazon River BasinThe Amazon River is the largest river in the world and the second longest, at 4,100 miles long.The Amazon River’s drainage basin covers around 2.7 million square miles, which is about 40% of all of South America.During the rainy season, the Amazon can be up to 60 miles wide in places.The Amazon discharges more than 50 billion gallons of water per second into the Atlantic Ocean.
10 Lake MaracaiboLake Maracaibo is S. America’s largest lake and one of the oldest bodies of water in the world.It is brackish – a mixture of fresh and salt water.It’s a major oil producing region of Venezuela.
12 Lake TiticacaOn the border of Peru and Bolivia, it is South America’s largest fresh-water lake.It is also the world’s highest navigable lake (13,000 feet above sea level).
13 Rio de la PlataThe Rio de la Plata is one of the world’s largest estuaries.An estuary is an inland arm of the sea that meets the mouth of a river.The Rio de la Plata is actually a confluence, which is where two or more rivers run together (Paraguay and Parana Rivers).
14 Angel Falls1. Located in Venezuela, Angel Falls is the world’s highest waterfall (3,212 feet).
15 Iguacu FallsLocated on the border of Brazil and Argentina, Iguacu Falls is the world’s widest waterfall during South America’s rainy season.Its two falls flow together and are over two miles wide.
16 Cape HornA cape is a strip of land that juts out into a large body of water.Cape Horn is actually an island that is part of the Tierra del’ Fuego archipelago.The Strait of Magellan is the channel that runs just north of the islands of Tierra del’ Fuego (its 331 miles long and between 2 to 15 miles wide).The Strait is difficult to maneuver but much safer for ships than the waters off Cape Horn.
20 South America’s Climate The northern region of South America has a tropical climate, except in the highland areas, where the climate is more temperate, or mild.The central region of South America has a more temperate climate.The southern region of South America is much cooler – the weather at Cape Horn is below freezing year round.
21 South America’s Population The majority of South America’s population lives within 500 miles of the coast due to the difficulty in getting to the interior of the continent.Culturally, most of South America was colonized by Spain or Portugal.The predominant language is Spanish and the predominant religion is Catholicism.Historically, South American countries have faced poverty and political instability.
22 South American Regions South American can be broken into four regions:Northern CountriesCentral Andean CountriesSouthern Cone CountriesBrazil
24 Northern CountriesThe Northern Countries of South America are Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.The western portion of this region is covered by the Andes, where mining is an important economic activity – Venezuela is the largest producer of oil in S.A.East of the Andes are the llanos, which are grass plains suitable for agriculture and raising livestock.East of the llanos are the Guiana Highlands, a heavily forested plateau region.A plateau is wide area of level, elevated land.The eastern portion of the region is covered with tropical rainforests.
28 South American Rain Forests The Amazon is the world’s largest, most famous rain forest region.The Amazon River Basin is home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem in the world - an estimated 30% of the world’s species.The region has a large, tribal population known as Amerindians.The rain forests are being cleared for farming, logging and livestock.
29 Slash and Burn Agriculture In the rain forest regions of South America, farmers use a technique known as shifting agriculture or slash and burn agriculture.Farmers will clear a part of the rain forest and farm it until the soil wears out.After the soil wears out, they abandon the land and clear another portion of the rain forest.
32 Central Andean Countries The Central Andean Countries are Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.Mining is important in this region because of the rich mineral resources of the Andes.Agriculture is also important in the region.They farm the area using terraces, which are flat areas cut into the mountain sides.The interior of these countries have always been sparsely populated but it has increased because of the discovery of oil in the region.Tourism is important in this area – people visit the sites of the ancient Incas.
37 Southern Cone Countries The Southern Cone Countries are Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.The northern part of the region is covered by the Pampas, which are grass-covered plains that are excellent for agriculture and raising livestock.The southern part of the region is the plateau area of Patagonia.The Patagonia region is very cold and also very dry because it is in the rain shadow of the Andes.The main economic activity of the Patagonia region is raising sheep.
41 BrazilBrazil is the largest, most populous country in South America and the 5th largest country in the world.Over half of South America’s population lives in Brazil.In the 1950’s, Brazil decided to develop the interior of the country by:Building the a new capital, Brasilia, and a new high system to make trade and transportation easier.Giving away mining rights and land for farming and raising livestock.This led to the destruction of more of Brazil’s rain forests and the destruction of the natural habitat of the native tribes of Brazil.