Geography in Peru
Peru is the third largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina and covers around 1.3 million km² on the west coast of the continent, near the equator. Peru borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. To the west lies the Pacific. Naturally, Peru is divided into three zones. A distinction is made between the dry coast in the west (Costa), the high mountains of the Andean chain in the middle of the country, also called sierra, and the rainforest areas in the eastern lowlands, which are also called Selva. The Costa is under the influence of the cool Humboldt Current and is largely a coastal desert, in which agriculture is only possible in river oases along the rivers coming from the Andes. In the far south, the driest region in the world begins with the Atacama Desert. Behind the narrow coastal region begins the sierra, which consists of several mountain ranges of the Andes and is interrupted by deep long valleys. The highest peaks are the Nevado Huascarán (6768 m), Yerupaja (6634 m) and Coropuna (6425 m). The rainforest region (Selva) begins east of the Andes. The eastern slope of the Andes is less steep than the western slope, so that the transition from tropical mountain forests to the rainforest areas of the lowlands is fluid. This is also where other headwaters of the Amazon originate, which flows through the Amazon basin towards Brazil. The Peruvian rainforest is dense and almost impenetrable. The rivers that flow from the chains of the Andes in wide loops to the Amazon are the only traffic arteries through the vast forest areas.
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Flora and fauna in Peru
Similar to the neighboring country Bolivia, Peru also has a very varied and diverse flora and fauna. With a particularly large biodiversity with an extremely large number of endemic species and diverse ecosystems, Peru is one of the world’s megadiversity countries.
In addition to grasses and shrubs, only dry plants such as cacti and mesquites grow in the dry and sandy-desert-like coastal plains. Only on the moister coast in the north of the country are there mangroves and kapok trees at the mouths of the Tumbes and Piura rivers.
In the Andes from a height of 500 meters you will find the dense forests of the Yunga Valleys. The tara tree and the Peruvian pepper tree grow here. Cacti such as the San Pedro cactus grow on the plateaus of the Peruvian Altiplano. Agaves are also common here. Above 3000 meters above sea level, in a damp and cool climate, grasses and small shrubs such as Espeletia species and other rosette plants as well as other ground cover grow mainly. The puya plants or the kantuta plants, both of which produce beautiful flowers, are also typical.
The greatest abundance of Peruvian flora can be found in the rainforest regions up to the cloud forest level of the mountains. Representatives of this vegetation include rubber and mahogany trees as well as vanilla. The biodiversity is particularly great in the rainforest. Rubber and mahogany trees, the red cinchona tree, cedars and cat’s claws as well as vanilla grow here. Orchids are common. The giant Amazon water lily can be found on the rivers, the leaves of which spread up to 3 meters. Many types of heliconias with lobster claw-like flowers are also common in the rainforest and in the cloud forest higher up. Passion flowers also form beautiful flowers.
Peru’s national plant is the cantua, a two to three meter high shrub with long, bell-shaped flowers from the family of pennies that grows at an altitude of 1200 to 3800 meters.
Just like the flora, the fauna of Peru is also rich in species. Lizards, scorpions, seals and penguins live in the coastal plain and offshore islands. Around 30 species of whales and dolphins such as the Peruvian beaked whale, which was only discovered here in 1991, are found in the Peruvian coastal waters.
Armadillos, alligators, jaguars, pumas, jaguarundi, ocelots, the tiger cat, the long-tailed cat, the marten-like tayra, the crab raccoon, the coati, and parrots and flamingos are at home in the more fertile rainforest areas in eastern Peru. The mountain cat is particularly rare and threatened with extinction. The Amazon dolphin and the up to two meters long fish Arapaima colonize the great rivers of the rainforests. In the mountain region the humpless camels live such. B. the llama and alpaca. The national animal of Peru, the red rock cock, can also be found here. Parrots, toucans and hummingbirds are also typical of the Peruvian rainforests. The giant hummingbird, on the other hand, is more native to the mountains, just like the bright red Andean cliff bird. Different species of flamingos can be found in the salt lakes of the south and on the Bolivian border. Various ibis species, bank rockers and Andean geese live in the highlands. On the coast there are chile pelicans, Humboldt penguins, guano boobies and guanocormorants as well as the Andean condor, which can be up to 3 m high.
National parks and nature conservation in Peru
The Constitution of Peru of 1993 recognizes the natural resources and the diversity of the ecosystems of this country as national heritage, in advance of which the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales was founded as a department of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1992, which maintains a list of all protected areas in Peru this takes care of. A total of 223,000 km² or around 17% of the land area of Peru are protected by the protective measures of the government, which at the same time ceded 40% of the Peruvian territory to private, profit-oriented companies for the development of natural resources and large-scale cultivation of agricultural products. Specifically, the protected areas are 15 national parks, 15 nature reserves, 9 protected areas, 4 historical protected areas, protected areas for forest fauna,
One of the most important protected areas is the Manú Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is located on the eastern slope of the Andes near Cusco and includes both tropical lowland forests and mountain habitats of the Andes.
In addition, the 3,400 km² Huascarán National Park in the Andean region is noteworthy, which includes the 6,768 m high summit of Nevado Huascarán and also many mountain lakes and deep valleys with a unique mountain landscape – flora and fauna.
The Manú National Park extends in the southeast of the country between the eastern foothills of the Andes and the Amazon lowlands over an area of approx. 18,800 km². The difference in altitude within the park is 4,000 m. The park protects three different landscape zones – rainforest, mountain rainforest and high mountains with unique flora and fauna, which extends over an altitude difference of approximately 4,000 m. The Rio Abiseo National Park near Pataz in the mountains of La Libertad protects both the ruin monuments from the Inca culture and the diverse flora and fauna, which also includes the endangered spectacled bear and the yellow-tailed monkey. All three national parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.