SOUTH AMERICAN ALTITUDE ZONES
Tierra Caliente 0 to 2,500 feet
Tierra Templada
2,500 to 6,000 feet
Tierra Fria
6,000 to 12,000 feet
Tierra Helada 12,000 to 15,000 feet
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Milson, Andrew J., Peggy Altoff, Mark H. Bockenhauer, Janet Smith, Michael W. Smith,
and David W. Moore. National Geographic: World Cultures and Geography. Jefferson
City, MO. National Geographic Learning, Cengage Learning. 2013.
SOUTH AMERICA GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY
By Your Name
Topics Page
High Mountains 191
Northern Grasslands
191
Elevation and Climate 192
Life Along the River 194
El Niños on Pacific Coast
Rain Forests
198
The Inca
200
Workings of the Empire 200
Achievements of the Inca
197
201
High Mountains
The Andes Mountains are a string of mountain ranges that stretch about 5,500 miles along the
western side of the continent. Many of the mountains in the Andes rise higher than 20,000 feet
above sea level. The climate in the Andes is generally cool and dry. Because of low
temperatures and high elevation, few types of vegetation, or plants, grow here.
Northern Grasslands
The northern part of South America has a warm climate, and it contains both low and high
elevations. Cattle ranching dominates the Llanos, or grasslands, wide open areas used for grazing
and crops. The Guiana Highlands in the north boast unusual plants and animals.
Elevation and Climate
More people live in the mild climates of the plains and grasslands than live in the extreme
climates of high mountains and tropical rain forests. The low-elevation plains, such as the
Llanos, the Pampas, and the Coastal Plain, are moderate, both in temperature and rainfall.
Life Along the River
Though the Amazon River is the world’s second largest river, it is the largest river in the world
by volume. The Amazon creates the largest river basin—2,700,000 square miles—and includes
the world’s largest tropical rain forest. The Amazon rain forest is home to thousands of plant and
animal species and millions of insect species. The variety of species in an ecosystem is called its
biodiversity.
El Niños on the Pacific Coast
El Niños influence climate on the western coast of South America. An El Niño (ehl NEEN yoh)
happens when the usual wind and ocean currents reverse. This reversal brings warm air currents
and water currents that produce high rainfall in coastal areas. El Niños occur in Peru because of
its location in the current system and on the Pacific coast.
The Peru Current brings cold waters to the Pacific coast in the west.
The Peru Current carries nutrient-rich waters from deep in the Pacific Ocean, so fish thrive off the
coasts of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador.
Brazil Current brings warm waters from the Atlantic.
The plains of the Pampas benefit from the Brazil Current.
Rain Forests
Through a process called transpiration, plants and trees release water vapor into the air. As the
water vapor rises, it cools, forming thick clouds that then produce rain. The warm air and moist
soil support the growth of vegetation.
The plants in the Amazon rain forest perform an important function. They absorb greenhouse
gases from Earth’s atmosphere. A greenhouse gas is a gas that traps heat energy, warming the
earth. Burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, produces greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
The Inca
The Inca rules a vast empire in a difficult, mountainous environment. The Inca Empire in South
America stretched along the Pacific coast.
Workings of the Empire
The Inca built the capital of their empire in Cuzco, in what is now Peru. Inca government and
society were highly organized. The emperor, called the Sapa Inca, was considered a descendant,
or a relative of the sun god, Inti.
Achievements of the Inca
The Inca utilized, or made practical use of, their advanced engineering skills to adapt to the
mountainous environment. For example, the Inca farmed on terraced fields, or flat fields cut into
slopes or mountainsides. They also built irrigation canals to water their crops because the climate
was arid.
The Inca adapted to their mountainous surroundings in other ways. They built:
Suspension bridges using vines and wood.
System of roads that helped keep the empire unified.
Built a complex city on a mountain, called Machu Picchu.