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South America

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Chapter Summary

Two major topographical features dominate South America: the Andes mountain chain and the Amazon River, by their sheer size as well as their geographical position. South America had been the western part of Gondwana from the Jurassic when it started to drift away to the west after rifting from Africa in the Early Cretaceous. A major climatic feature with effects on conifer distribution in the Andes is the shift from easterly moisture-laden winds in the tropics to westerly currents at around 30° S. All species present in the Andes belong to the Podocarpaceae, in three genera Podocarpus, Prumnopitys and Retrophyllum. Three species of Podocarpus are mainly distributed on the Guayana Shield, one species, P. roraimae is endemic, one species also occurs in N Venezuela and the third species is also found in Ecuador. Brazil is the largest country in South America with an area of 8.5 million km².

Keywords:Andes; Brazil; Guayana Shield; Podocarpus; Prumnopitys; Retrophyllum; South America



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