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High plain and desert

Five of Chile’s basic forms of relief are found in the Greater North of the country. These are: the coastal plain, Coastal mountain range, intermediate depression, high plain and the Andes mountains. However, each of the regions that form this area has its own particular traits.

– Region of Arica y Parinacota: besides presenting the five aforementioned forms of relief, in the coast and in the intermediate depression this region presents two new geographical accidents: coastal cliffs and the Tarapaca plateau. The former is a uniform chain cut by the Vitor ravine (south of Arica). This formation abruptly drops into the sea in the form of a cliff. The latter plateau is interrupted by several ravines, which create small pampas, like Chaca and Camarones.
The coastal plain is scarce and nearly inexistent in this region, except in the city of Arica. The Coastal range is born from Camaraca hill, 30 km south of the linea de la Concordia (line of concord, border between Chile and Peru).
The intermediate depression is a vast plain up to 40 km wide with peaks that range from 500 to 2,000 masl; the high plain is an extensive plateau located at high altitude (4,000 masl); and the Andes mountains are massif, high and volcanic, with peaks above 6,000 masl.

– Region of Tarapaca: here, one can also see coastal cliff and the other five forms of relief that characterize this area.
Coastal plains narrow between the ocean and the Coastal mountain range due to erosion of the latter. Coastal cliffs are typically a solid massif that rises from the sea, some reaching up to 800 masl. The Coastal range is scarce, only seen from Punta Camarones to the Loa river.
The intermediate depression is a space that developed thanks to a number of different erosions and due to the action of wind and water. The Tamarugal pampas are found here, a plateau that ranges between 600 to 1,500 masl. The high plain (altiplano) is a plain located between the eastern and western chains of the Andes mountains. Said mountains are a high, solid massif, with nearly 6,000 masl peaks. On the western foothills there are some mountainous woodlands interrupted by deep, different sized ravines.

– Region of Antofagasta: its physiognomy is quite similar to that of Tarapaca, except for a new geographical accident east of the intermediate depression: the Domeyko mountain range. It spans all the way to Paipote ravine (Region of Atacama), reaching heights over 3,000 masl, some even higher than 4,000 masl, like Quimal hill (4,276 masl).
The coastal plain is wider than is the other two regions, but it is interrupted south of Antofagasta, only to reappear in the area called El Cobre. The Coastal mountain range is located south of the Loa river and it acts as a climate barrier that stops the humid winds of the sea, thus contributing towards the dryness of the intermediate depression. The intermediate depression is represented here as the continuation of the Tamarugal pampas, including many saltpans, and by the Atacama desert, which is born south of the Loa river, spreading all the way to the Region of Atacama. Just as in previous regions, the Andes mountains are a tall massif with plenty of volcanism.

Flora and fauna

The biogeographical trend of the Greater North is directly linked to the shortage of water, high solar radiation and extreme dryness of the region. In addition, it is also characterized for containing a significant amount of endemic species. Next, we will name the plant and animal species that nest represent this part of the country.

The coast is dominated by weeds and grasses that grow during periods of high humidity, like lichens and several species of cactaceae (cacti). 
One can also find Rabo de zorro (fox tail, Sideritis angustifolia), corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) and malvilla (Cristaria aspera). Local wildlife inhabiting the territory includes marine otters (Lontra felina), south American sea lions (Otaria flavescens), black-chinned siskins (Carduelis barbata), mourning sierra finches (Phygilus fruticeti) and the culpeo fox (Lycalopex culpaeus).

In the pampas (intermediate depression), due to extreme dryness and high temperature, there is nearly no vegetation. Nevertheless, the plant life found here is perfectly adapted to these conditions. Standouts include cacti, grasses and bushes, such as the the congonilla (Peperomia doellii), pata de guanaco (guanaco’s foot, Calandrinia longiscapa) and the most common tree, the tamarugo (Prosopis tamarugo). Animal life is also scarce, only a few birds are to be found, like the tamarugo conebill (Conirostrum tamarugense) and the vermillion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus).

Yareta (Azorella compacta), susurco (Mulinium crassifolium), and queñoa (Polylepsis spp.), among others, all grow in the Andean region. This area’s typical fauna is mainly made up of camelids, vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), llamas (Lama glama) and guanacos (Lama guanicoe), and other mammels, like the southern vizcacha (Lagidum viscacia).
One can also find some bird species, such as the three species of flamingoes that live in Chile, the Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) and the James’s or puna flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), the Andean  condor (Vultur gryphus) and the puna teal (Anas puna).

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