Bolivia Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in Bolivia?

Overview:

Landlocked Bolivia shares borders with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru. With an area of 424,000 square miles (1,099,050 square kilometers). Bolivia has three well-defined geographic zones — high plateau (altiplano), temperate and semitropical valleys of the eastern mountain slopes (yungas), and tropical lowlands (llanos) of the Amazon River Basin.

Lying between the main eastern and western ridges of the Andean Mountains, the altiplano is 500 miles (805 kilometers) long and 80 miles (130 kilometers) wide. At altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 feet (3,660 to 4,270 meters), it is one of the world’s highest inhabited regions. Lake Titicaca, on the altiplano, straddles the northern Bolivia-Peru border, with an area of 3,500 square miles (9,060 square kilometers), depths of 700 feet (210 meters), and a constant surface temperature of 55°F (13°C). The most agriculturally productive and populated part of the altiplano surrounds the lake. The inhabitants of the altiplano, mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians, have a subsistence agricultural and grazing economy. Their livestock include sheep, cows, goats, alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. Rich mineral deposits, Bolivia’s economic backbone, are found in nearby mountain areas (La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí).

The regions of temperate and semitropical valleys lie east and northeast of the altiplano and vary in altitude from 1,600 feet to 9,000 feet (490 meters to 2,740 meters) above sea level. They are major agricultural producers of corn, barley, coffee, cacao, coca, citrus, and sugarcane. The major cities of Cochabamba, Sucre, and Tarija are situated in the valleys southeast of La Paz.

The llanos cover more than two-thirds of Bolivia. Through them flow major tributaries of the Amazon: the Mamoré, Beni, Ichilo, Iténes, and Madre de Díos Rivers. Except for the Santa Cruz Department, the llanos are sparsely populated and undeveloped but offer excellent potential for agriculture and livestock raising. The cities of Santa Cruz (Bolivia’s second largest), Trinidad, Riberalta, and Cobija are the major cities of the llanos. Santa Cruz, the second largest and fastest growing city in Bolivia is the center of the petroleum and natural gas industries.

Geography - note:

landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru

Climate:

Bolivia lies entirely within the Tropics, but extreme differences in elevation from 300 feet (90 meters) along the Brazilian border to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) at the highest peaks produce a great variety of climatic conditions. Coupled with soil diversity, this produces highly varied vegetation, from the sparse scrub grasses in semiarid highlands to lush rain forests containing a variety of hardwoods (Mahogany, South American, Oak, and Cedar). There are two seasons in La Paz: a rainy season beginning in December and continuing through March (it rains almost daily during this period), and a dry season running from April to November. The climate is generally cool, but brilliant sunshine raises daytime temperatures. Midday outdoor parties and activities are pleasant. Rainfall averages 20 inches (51 centimeters) a year.

Bolivia Use of Natural Resources

Bolivia Environment

Climate:

Bolivia lies entirely within the Tropics, but extreme differences in elevation from 300 feet (90 meters) along the Brazilian border to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) at the highest peaks produce a great variety of climatic conditions. Coupled with soil diversity, this produces highly varied vegetation, from the sparse scrub grasses in semiarid highlands to lush rain forests containing a variety of hardwoods (Mahogany, South American, Oak, and Cedar). There are two seasons in La Paz: a rainy season beginning in December and continuing through March (it rains almost daily during this period), and a dry season running from April to November. The climate is generally cool, but brilliant sunshine raises daytime temperatures. Midday outdoor parties and activities are pleasant. Rainfall averages 20 inches (51 centimeters) a year.

Terrain:

rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin

Natural Resources:

tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower

Natural Hazards:

flooding in the northeast (March-April)

Irrigated Land:

495 Square Miles
1,282 Square Kilometers

Environmental Issues:

the clearing of land for agricultural purposes and the international demand for tropical timber are contributing to deforestation; soil erosion from overgrazing and poor cultivation methods (including slash-and-burn agriculture); desertification; loss of biodiversity; industrial pollution of water supplies used for drinking and irrigation

Environment - International Agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Bolivia Geography

Geographic Location South America
Total Area 424,162 Square Miles
1,098,581 Square Kilometers
Land Area 418,263 Square Miles
1,083,301 Square Kilometers
Water Area 5,900 Square Miles
15,280 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 4,312 Miles
6,940 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 495 Square Miles
1,282 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Argentina 832 km, Brazil 3,400 km, Chile 861 km, Paraguay 750 km, Peru 900 km
Geographic Coordinates 17 00 S, 65 00 W
Terrain rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin
Highest Point 6,542 Meters
Highest Point Location Nevado Sajama 6,542 m
Lowest Point 90 Meters
Lowest Point Location Rio Paraguay 90 m
Natural Resources tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower
Time Zone UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
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