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Peru, Land and Resources

Cordillera Occidental, Cordillera Oriental, Huascaran, V-shaped valleys, Cordillera Central

Peru may be divided into three main topographical regions: the coastal plain, the sierra, and the montana.

The coastal plain is an arid, elongated stretch of land extending the entire length of the country and varying in width from about 65 to 160 km (about 40 to 100 mi). It is a northern extension of the Atacama Desert of Chile. The plain has few adequate harbors. Most of the desert is so dry that only 10 of the 52 rivers draining the Andean slopes to the Pacific Ocean have sufficient volume to maintain their flow across the desert and reach the coast. However, the coast is the economic center of Peru. Most of the nationís leading commercial and export crops grow in the 40 oases of the region.

Parallel to and lying east of the coastal plain is the sierra, an upland region with towering mountain ranges of the Andes, lofty plateaus, and deep gorges and valleys. The main range is the Cordillera Occidental; other ranges include the Cordillera Oriental, the Cordillera Central, and a number of lesser chains. The sierra, which covers some 30 percent of the countryís land area, traverses the country from southeast to northwest and varies in width from about 400 km (about 250 mi) in the south to about 240 km (about 150 mi) in the north; the average height is some 3,660 m (some 12,000 ft).

Several of the highest peaks in the world are located in the various sierran cordilleras and plateaus, notably Huascaran (6,768 m/22,205 ft), the highest in Peru. Lake Titicaca is in the southeast. The rainy eastern slopes of the Andes are deeply carved by rivers into a chaotic maze of sharp crests, canyons 3,000 m (10,000 ft) deep, and V-shaped valleys through which emerge several major tributaries of the Amazon River. This rugged border is the principal barrier to trans-Andean travel. Earthquakes occur in the sierra.

In the northeast the sierra slopes downward to a vast, flat tropical jungle, the selvas, extending to the Brazilian border and forming part of the Amazon Basin. The forested sierran slopes and a somewhat less elevated region are collectively designated the montana. The montana attains a maximum width of about 965 km (about 600 mi) in the north and constitutes some 60 percent of the Peruvian land area; it is covered with thick tropical forests in the west and with dense tropical vegetation in the center and east. As a result, the region remains largely unexplored and undeveloped.

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Article key phrases:

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