South America, the fourth biggest continent, contains about 12 percent of the Earth’s land area. Populated by over 355 million people, this continent is unique and filled with incredible biodiversity.
South America’s landscape is vast and varied. For example, this continent includes the Amazon River basin, which is the largest tropical rain forest in the world. Additionally, this basin contains half of the Earth’s fresh water supply. South America is also home to Quidbo, Colombia, where more than 350 inches of rain fall each year. In contrast, South America’s Atacama Desert, located in Chile, only receives 0.04 inches of rain annually.
South America’s various climates are found at many different latitudes and altitudes. Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, is located between Bolivia and Peru, for instance.
South America’s diverse climates parallel the continent’s diverse plant and animal life. In fact, this landscape contains more plant species than any of the other continents on Earth do. The Amazon River basin also has 2,500 types of trees. Products like rubber, quinne, sisal, chocolate, and wood are sometimes harvested from the plants of South America.
This continent’s closed ecosystem, or an ecosystem that can completely sustain itself, has spurred the evolution of many different types of wildlife. Creatures that reside in South America include the jaguar, sloth, piranha, iguana, armadillo, and many kinds of parrots and monkeys.
Like the continent’s landspace, plant life, and animal species, South America’s people are also diverse. Many of the land’s original settlers came from Asia. In the 1500s, Europeans—mostly from Spain and Portugal—began to settle in South America, too. Once these settlers intermarryied with local people, many mixed race children known as mestizos were born.
In the Andean countries like Bolivia and Peru, much of the population is native to South America. Argentina’s population, in contrast, consists mostly of white people with German, Italian, and British descent. On the other hand, Brazil’s population includes many descendants of African slaves who were originally brought to the continent to work on sugar plantations.
Since 1940, South America’s population has tripled. There is so much to learn about this interesting, diverse continent!
[Source: The Kingfisher Children Encyclopedia]