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The Natural Environment

Vegetation

The vegetation zones of South America correspond closely with the climatic zones. The areas of wet tropical climate have a dense cover of rain forest, or selva. The largest forest area in the world, this rain forest covers much of equatorial South America, including the Brazilian coast and the lower slopes of the Andes, and contains tropical hardwoods, palms, tree ferns, bamboos, and lianas. Open forests and brushlands are found in the areas of winter drought chiefly on the Venezuelan coast, in northeastern Brazil, and on the Gran Chaco. Between these drier areas and the rain forest are zones of tall grass (savannas, or campos) and of scrub and grass (campos cerrados). Mixed (containing both deciduous and evergreen trees) and deciduous forests occur in southern Brazil and along the slopes of the Andes. In Brazil the forest grades, to the south, into areas of rolling prairie interrupted by wooded hills. The Gran Chaco is characterized by grassy plains and open thorn scrub forest. The flat Pampas of east central Argentina is the largest midlatitude grassland of South America. To the south a zone of scrub steppe (monte) marks the transition to the low brush and bunch grass that cover the drier and cooler Patagonia region. Along the Pacific coast, the vegetation grades northward from forest to open woodland, to shrubs and grass in central Chile, and eventually to the scrub and desert vegetation that prevails into northern Peru and up to the mountain flanks.

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