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Brief Description of Venezuela’s Geography

Venezuela is a tropical country that has geographical characteristics common with other nations in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania — both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres — that are situated between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Venezuela’s location allows for varied tropical climates with a large natural potential for renewable solar energy  and exuberant and diverse vegetation that thrives in humid environments. There is great physical diversity throughout Venezuela, with 27 climate zones, 12 types of natural vegetation, 23 varieties of geographic relief and 38 geological units that contain soil of varied characteristics and qualities.


Location

  • The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is located to the north of the equator along the northern coast of South America. The continental territory is located between 0° 38′ 53”, 12° 11′ 46” north latitude and 59° 47′ 30”, and 73° 23′ western longitude. It’s bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea, extending 2,813 km; to the south by the Republic of Brazil with a border extending 2,000 km; to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and the Republic of Guyana, with which it has a border of 743 km; and to the west by the Republic of Colombia, whose border extends 2,050 km.

  • Venezuela’s continental shelf is located to the north and northeast of the country, accounting for approximately 18% of the total continental surface and a maritime presence of 860,000 km2. In general, it is comprised of a narrow coastal stretch of low altitude, between 0 to 100 meters above sea level. It is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Venezuelan Coastal Range. There are three important depressions: the Lake of Maracaibo to the west, the Unare depression in the central northeast and the Delta of the Orinoco to the east. Venezuela’s coast is the location of the country’s most important ports: La Guaira, Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello and Puerto La Cruz.

 

Types of Climate Zones in Venezuela

Monsoon

It is characterized by the presence of a short dry season, but the total rainfall is tremendous and the soil conserves sufficient humidity to maintain jungle vegetation. This climatic variety owes its name to the influence of the humid monsoon winds that, originating from the Atlantic Ocean, blow over the Delta Amacuro and Monagas states.

Most of the vegetation that covers a great part of the deltaic zone and the northeastern region of Monagas are mangrove swamps.

Rainy Savannah with Dry Season

It is characterized by the persistence of high temperatures and lasts all year, since the monthly averages are above 16°C. The dry period generally lasts from December until March.

The vegetation associated with this type of climate includes trees spaced out along large areas covered with grasses and with wooded zones with some clearings.

This climatic zone is typical of a considerable part of the western sector of the State of Zulia, large portions of Barinas and Apure states and of almost all the surface of the Anzoátegui, Cojedes, Guárico, Monagas and Portuguese states.

Humid and Rainy without Dryness

It is characterized by a hard, rainy period that lasts all year. The average monthly temperature in the areas situated under 600 meters of altitude is greater than 18°C.

The predominant vegetation is jungle. This climatic variety is present in nearly every part of Amazonas and Bolívar states, the southwestern sector of Zulia state, a small portion to the west of the Apure state, the southwest of Barinas state and the windward sub-region in Miranda state.

Steppe with a Short Rainy Season

The dry season is normally from November until May. The characteristic vegetation are xerophyte plants. The rain comes down as showers, distributed over two annual periods. This type of climate is most common in the northern sector of Zulia tate. It’s also common in a great portion of Falcón state, especially in the north and in northeast, including the Paraguaná Peninsula; in the coastal region of the Federal District; in almost all Nueva Esparta state; in federal dependencies like the Los Testigos Archipelago; and in a small sector to the north of Anzoátegui state.

Desert

This climate is extremely hot and dry, with brief and very scarce rains. In many cases, the soil lacks vegetable cover. It is found in some federal dependencies, like the Los Monjes, La Tortuga and La Orchila archipelagos and, largely, the Araya Peninsula (Sucre state).

Rainy and Temperate

It is found in areas with an altitude between 1,000 and the 2,000 meters. The rains are continuous throughout the year. However, the monthly average temperature of the coldest month is always lower at 18°C. This climatic diversity is found in certain sectors of Guyana (Amazonas and Bolívar states), as well as the Mérida Coastal Range. The predominant vegetation in this type of climate is xerophytes plants, although of the microthermic variety.

Tundra

It is classified as such mainly because the hottest month registers temperatures between 0 and 10°C. This is the actual climate of the Andean wastelands. It is located above 2,800 meters above sea level. It only dominates some small, elevated sectors of the Andean states: Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo.

Cold

It is defined also as a climate of high mountains, being below 10°C, the temperature of the hottest month. In the Andean summits of the Mérida Coastal Range, above an altitude of 4,700 meters, the presence of snow is noted.

 

Flora

Frailejón

In Venezuela, the variety of landscapes has allowed for the development of very different florae—as is the case of the Espeletia species as well as the indigenous floral species of the Venezuelan Andes; the thorny flora of the dry, coastal zones of Falcón, Sucre; of the internal areas in Lara or Anzoátegui or the dense jungle forests to the south of the country. In general, four primary types of vegetation can be identified in this area: forests, grasslands, pastures and pioneering vegetation (lichen and moss). In Venezuela, each one of these large types of vegetation appears in a multitude of variant and spectacular forms, depending on biotic and physical factors. The flora of Venezuela is estimated at around 30,000 species of plants with seeds, without including other vegetable groups like algae, mushrooms, lichen, bryophytes and ferns. The main biomes of Venezuela can be divided into wooded areas; they comprise evergreen forests, dry forests, xerophilous forests and mangrove swamps, and not wooded areas; more commonly, Venezuela is comprised of wastelands, savannahs, dunes and salty plains.

 

If you want to know more about Venezuelan flora, visit the PDVSA website, or the Government Online website.

 

Fauna

Guacamaya

The vertebrate fauna of Venezuela contains some 2,828 terrestrial species and 1,000 continental water fish species. The total figures vary due to the great quantity of new species reported or verified as similar to species previously described. The mammalian fauna of Venezuela covers 306 terrestrial species and 21 aquatic, 14 of which are endemic to the country. In all, there are 11 orders and 45 families. With respect to the bird fauna in Venezuela, some 1,360 species of birds have been recognized to date; this quantity represents 15% of the total recognized in the planet, making it the sixth country with the greatest number of bird species in the world.

 

If you want to know more on about the Venezuelan flora, visit the PDVSA website, or the Government Online website.

 

Hydrography

Venezuelan rivers flow either towards the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

The side of the Caribbean Sea is comprised of the Lake of Maracaibo Basin and the Unare, Yaracuy, Tocuyo, Neverí, Aroa and Manzanare rivers that flow into directly into the sea. The Limón, Catatumbo, Socuy, Chama, Escalante and Motatán rivers flow into the Lake of Maracaibo.

Water that flows into the Atlantic Ocean is concentrated in the Orinoco Basin, which at 2,140 km in length is fed by rivers from the Venezuelan plains (Meta, Arauca, Cinaruco and Apure) and from the Guyana area (Ventuari, Cuchivero, Suapure, Aro, Caura and Caroní). Together, these rivers drain four-fifths of Venezuela’s water.

The Orinoco River is the longest river in northern South America. It is born in the Parima Sierra in the Guyanese Highlands on the border between Amazonas state and Brazil. It travels through forests and savannas along a C-shaped trajectory along the border with Colombia and across Venezuela until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean at a delta with numerous branches.

 

Geographical Regions

Coastal Range

Is a structural continuation of the insular arch of the Oriental region of the Caribbean, located between the North-Central-Oriental Coastal Zone and the depressions in the country’s central plains. It covers only 3% of the total surface of the country and is a densely populated region. It is made up of a complex mountain range of the alpine type with various forms of relief, such as interior valleys, hills and hillocks, which can still be found in a small number of areas. It extends from the Larense Depression to the west to the peninsulas of Paria and Araya to the east, with a single important interruption: the Unare Depression. This system is divided into two sections: Central and Oriental, by the Unare Depression and the Cariaco Gulf.

Coastal Range and the Caribbean Islands

This unit is located to the North of Venezuela, among the Yaracuy Depression, the Gulf of Paria, the Plains and the Caribbean Sea, which extends 40,000 square km.

Maracaibo Lake Basin

It spans from the northeast of Venezuela and corresponds to the area situated in the angle that forms the coast range Perijá and of Mérida. The basin occupies a tectonic sinking of about 52,000 km². The primary petroleum-producing region of the country is located in the eastern part of the basin.

Valleys and Mountain Ranges

It’s a region of varying relief and little elevation, with altitudes between 500 and 1,700 meters. It is located to the northwest of the country and occupies the majority of the Falcón, Lara and Yaracuy states, with an approximate area of 52,000 km². It serves as a transition between the most vigorous reliefs that make up the surrounding regions. The locked plains of semiarid river origin are also found in this region, in addition to the only regional desert of the country formed: the Medanos de Coro (in the coast of Falcón).

Coastal Range of the Andes

This mountain range feature highest summits of the Venezuelan relief. It is made up of an extension of the Colombian Andes, which upon arriving at the Knot of Pamplona (Colombia) fork in two chains: The Perijá Sierra and the Mérida Coast Range or of the Venezuelan Andes. The coast range of the Andes enters Venezuela through the Táchira Depression, from where it extends up to the Lara State. Its center is longitudinally divided by the Chama and Motatán rivers, which run in opposite directions at their greatest altitudes.

The highest peak of the country is the Bolívar Peak, at 5,007 meters. The Perijá Sierra flows toward the northwest and it comprises the western limit of Venezuela. Its highest altitude is the Tetari Peak with 3,750 meters.

The Plains

They are extensive surfaces of almost flat relief, located in the center of the country, whose heights oscillate between 500 and 200 meters above sea level.

They cover an extension of approximately from 25% of the total surface of the country. They extend over a distance of 1,300 km, from the mouth of the Orinoco, by the east, to the Andean Coast Range, by the west, from the foothills of the Orinoco Coast Range. The sedimentary oil basins are found in this enormous region.

This region extends as a wide avenue between the coast range of the Andes and of the Coast and the Guyanese Highlands. More than one-fourth of the territory is made up of this class of reliefs. It’s related to the youngest soils of the country, primarily formed during the Quaternary; and even today, due to the sinking of the Apure Basin, continues placing sediments contributed by the rivers that descend from the coast range.

Their heights oscillate between 200 and 500 meters above sea level. It does deal with a uniform plain, since once inside some physiographic accidents occur, such as mesas, galleys, waves, sandbanks, banks and estuaries.

Guyanese Highlands

This physiographic unit extends over a great part of the states Bolívar and Amazon, in an area of 423,000 km² that makes up 45% of the total surface of Venezuela. The Guyanese Shield is made up of one of the oldest geological formations of the world.

In the southeasternmost area, the physiography of the highland is characterized by the presence of imposing high plateaus that reach 2,275 meters in altitude.

To the north of the Guyanese Highlands are some savannahs that form extensive girdles with heights of 400 meters that support variable vegetation.

This region is features important mining resources, among which are iron and bauxite. Another important contribution from the region to the national development is the energy potential supplied by the Carona River, through the Guri Hydroelectric Plant.

Coriano System

It is an assembly formed by mountain ranges and valleys that are limited to the southeast with the Mérida Coast Range; to the West with the Maracaibo Lake and its northern plain and the Gulf of Venezuela; and to the east with the Coast Range. The relief in this zone is slightly elevated, with altitudes between 500 and 1,700 meters.

In the Falcón-Lara Mountain Range, the following mountain ranges are seen: the San Luis Sierra, the Buena Vista Sierra and the Baragua Sierra. The coastal portions comprise the plains of the northern coast.

The Paraguaná Peninsula is made up of an island joined to the continent by the Médanos Isthmus. It is characterized by the presence of large deposits of sand, with some xerophyte vegetation, of which the sandbanks or dunes are made up.

Deltaic Plain

It’s an extension of 32,000 km² that is situated to the east of the country among the low Monagas Plains, the Guyanese Highlands and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a region that finds itself in the process of consolidation, is of scarce height and slight unevenness, and which frequently is flooded or overrun by the tides and closeness of the sea, with an abundance of lagoons, marshes, numerous islands and innumerable arms and pipes.

 

Soil

Since the National Inventory of Lands Program of Venezuela, an intense investigation effort has been executed and a classification system of the 7th Taxonomic International Approximation has been adopted. This classification has the advantage of taking into account the genetic factors of the soil. The great variety of climates, relief, lithology, vegetation and drainage has led Venezuela to boast a great variety of soil.

The identified orders and suborders are the following:

Entisols:This soil is young, with a very short pedogenetic history, characteristic of zones of alluvium, flood valleys, erosion backfills, and zones of very accentuated dunes and slopes with high levels of erosion. The most frequent suborders are:

Aquents: Full with water, they’re found in decaying marshes and deltas.

Fluvents: They are recent floors, made up of plateaus and alluvial valleys. In general, they have a claylike-silty granulometry and regular quantities of organic matter.

Orthens: Made up of its own alluvial plateaus that receive zone sediments with greater erosion than the Fluvents. They have less organic matter and a limey-sandy granulometry.

Psamments: Floors of sandy alluvium, dune floors and erosion backfills.

Fuentes:

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