Located in the northernmost part of South America, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has a privileged geography and physiography, with high orographic, climatic and therefore ecological diversity, manifested in an immense biological wealth, of which much remains to be discovered . The country is located between 0º 38 ‘and 15º 41’ N (from the north of the Amazon Basin to Isla de Aves to the north of its exclusive economic zone) and between 59º44 ‘and 72º23’ (from the Orinoco Delta and Essequibo to the Serranía de Perija). The total area is 916,445 km2 with a land area of 882,050 km2. Its maritime area includes 71,295 km² of territorial sea, 99,889 km² of continental shelf and 471,507 km² of exclusive economic zone in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. This location gives the country a wide diversity of ecosystems along 27 climatic zones, with 650 types of natural vegetation, 23 landforms and 38 large geological units.
Venezuela has a rich geographic diversity, with Andean and coastal mountainous areas, low tropical forest areas, coastal lagoons, pre-Cambrian mountain ranges of the Shield of Guayana and alluvial plains of the Orinoco basin.
The most important mountain formations are the Cordillera de la Costa in its northern zone, the Cordillera de Mérida with a maximum height of 4978 msnm in the Bolivar Peak and the Serranía de Perijá that rises to 3750 msnm, in the border with Colombia.
The depression of Lake Maracaibo is formed by alluvial deposits from the Andes and Perija. Lake Maracaibo is a gigantic estuary (one of the largest in South America), receives more than 130 tributaries and is surrounded by fertile lands with high agricultural potential. This region presents several rivers of binational character with the Republic of Colombia, among which stands out the Catatumbo River, known for its atmospheric electrical activity (Catatumbo lightning).
The Lara Falcón Formation is located in the northwest of Venezuela, between the Cordillera de la Costa and the Andes, is composed of diverse mountainous formations and of hills, valleys and coastal plains. It highlights the Paraguana Peninsula, connected to the main landmass by a bar of sand dunes.
The coastal region includes a narrow strip extending 2718 km of Caribbean coastline and 556 km of Atlantic coast, where predominates a vegetation of xeric forest, scrub and thorn bushes. In this region the main coastal mangrove formations and extensions of the country’s marine phanerogams are also located.
The insular space of Venezuela located in its territorial sea and exclusive economic zone of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Facade, includes the archipelagos of Los Monjes, Las Aves, Los Testios Los Frailes, Los Roques, La Sola and Los Hermanos, as well as the La Orchila, La Tortuga, Blanquilla, Margarita, Coche and Cubagua, Patos and Isla de las Aves, the latter establishes the northern limit of maritime sovereignty to a latitude of 15°41′ north. The predominant vegetation is xerophytic scrub, except for Margarita Island (the largest in the country), which has elevations above 900 meters above sea level with evergreen forest development.
The most extensive bioregion of the country is that of the Llanos del Orinoco, which extends from the Andean piedmont to the west to its mouth in the Orinoco Delta in the Atlantic. This region is divided in the Llanos Altos, with good drainage and with important formations of forest vegetation, the Llanos Bajos where the savannas predominate, and climatic extremes that makes them flooded in the rainy season, and the Eastern Plains, characterized by formations in forms like tables of regime more arid.
The Orinoco Delta is the largest wetland in the country with more than 43 thousand km2 of extension, and is originated by the alluvial deposits from the entire basin of this river, is fan shaped and consists of hundreds of tributaries that flow into The Atlantic. Here are the most extensive and developed mangrove communities, as well as floodplain forests and savannas, rebalse lagoon systems, morichales and palm groves. This delta receives an important influence from the Atlantic tides.
To the south of the Orinoco by its right margin, the Escudo de Guayanés is erected, whose predominant relief is the formations of penillanuras with extensive tropical forests, serranías and high plains (tepuyes), which present very high degrees of biological endemism. To the southwest of the Escudo, is the only section of Amazon basin present in Venezuela, connecting with the Orinoco basin through the Brazo Casiquiare.
As a result of the high diversity in biomes, Venezuela concomitantly presents one of the world’s highest diversity rates in plant and animal species. The Escudo de Guayana region along with the mountainous systems of the Andes, the Cordillera de la Costa and the Serranía de Perijá are the main centers of endemism in flora and fauna of the country.
To date, 5309 species of vertebrates have been cataloged; 1464 birds, 386 mammals, 377 reptiles, 342 amphibians, 1860 freshwater fish and 880 marine fish. The number of endemic species known in Venezuela amounts to 19 mammals, 49 birds, 16 reptiles, 157 amphibians and 37 freshwater fish. With reference to the invertebrates is estimated in at least 110 thousand species of which the majority have not yet been identified taxonomically and about 100 thousand correspond only to coleoptera.
Among the emblematic bird species of our country are: the turpial (Icterus icterus) national bird of Venezuela, the cardinalito (Spinus cucullatus) the harpy eagle (Harpia harpya), the Corian cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus), the Andean condor (Vultur Gryphus), sparrow hawk (Buteo gallus meridionalis), güires ducks (genus Dendrocygna sp), Orinoco goose (Neochen jubata), Great egret (Ardea alba), Rufescent tiger heron (Tigrisoma lineatum), red corocora (Eudocimus ruber), the stork soldier (Jabiru mycteria), pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), chicagüire (Chauna chavaria), Helmeted curassow (Pauxi pauxi), Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), Plain-flanked rail (Rallus wetmorei), Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis), Bare-eyed pigeon (Patagioenas corensis), Eared dove (Zenaida auriculata), Scarlet macaw (Ara macao), Yellow-crowned amazon (Amazona ochrocephala), Yellow-shouldered amazon (Amazona barbadensis) , and the Guacharo or Oilbird (Steatornis caripensis), to cite the most representative.
Among the mammals are the manatee (Trichechus manatus), pacarana (Dinomys branickii), jaguar (Panthera onca), cunaguaro or Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) tapir (Tapirus terrestris) (Pteronura brasiliensis), White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Red brocket (Mazama americana), Lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), Mountain paca (Cuniculus taczanowskii), Bush dog (Speothos venaticus), Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis) and Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis).
Among the most important reptiles are the caiman of the Orinoco (Crocodylus intermedius), the crocodile of the Costa (Crocodylus acutus), the baba (Caiman crocodilus), the arrau turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the Galapago llanero (Podocnemis vogli) Terecay (Podocnemis unifilis), the Zulian tortoise (Rhinoclemmys diademata), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), the cardon tortoise (Dermochelys coriacea) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
For it´s legal protection Venezuela has cataloged 47 species as endangered (Decree 1486 of September 11, 1996), including 22 species of mammals, 11 birds, 8 reptiles and 6 amphibians. Among these species are the Orinoco caiman, arrau turtle and sea turtles, for which national conservation programs are developed with the aim of supporting the recovery of their wild populations.
In terms of vegetation, the country is home to various types of vegetation communities (clouded, evergreen, deciduous, riparian), flooded or non-floodable savannas, herbaceous, shrubby and arboreal species, varying in size and distribution; coastal mangroves, moriches , grasslands, herbaceous, cardonal, spiny, as well as an herbaceous shrub vegetation present in the Andean badlands and in the plateaus of the Escudo Guayanés. So far 650 vegetation types and at least 16,681 plant species have been recorded, grouped into 230 families and 1,786 genera.
Among the representative plant species are, araguaney (Tabebuia chrysantha), flor de mayo (Cattleya mossiae), the tree and the national flower of Venezuela, respectively; el acapro (Tabebuia spectabilis), apamate (Tabebuia rosea), cedar (Cedrella odorata), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), mijao (Anacardium excelsum), samán (Samanea saman), ceiba (Ceiba pentrandra), indio desnudo (Bursera simaruba), drago (Pterocarpus officinalis), caro caro (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), jobo (Spondias mombin), guamo (Inga sp.), abey (Jacaranda obtusifolia), copaiba (Copaifera officinalis), canafístolo (Cassia moschata), chaparro (Curatella americana), cork oak (Bowdichia virgilioides), manteco (Byrsonima crassifolia), llanera palm (Copernicia tectorum), moriche (Mauritia flexuosa), chaguaramo (Roystonea oleracea), red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), cactus (Stenocereus sp.; Opuntia sp.; Melocactus sp.), guamacho (Pereskia guamacho), cují (Prosopis sp.), pino laso (Retrophyllum rospigliosii) frailejón (Speletia sp.), coloradito (Polylepis sericea) and species of the genus Bonettia, Brocchinia y Stegolepis; present in the Tepuyan peaks, among other plants.
Venezuela has the largest system of protected areas in Latin America. In total, the protected areas cover 46% of the national territory and are made up of areas under the Special Administration Regime, which include 43 national parks, 36 natural monuments, 7 wildlife refuges, 4 wildlife reserves, 1 Sanctuary of wildlife and 2 biosphere reserves.
In the context of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Program, Venezuela has declared two Biosphere Reserves: Biosphere Reserve Alto Orinoco Casiquiare and Reserve of the Orinoco Delta Biosphere, registered in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves Network, in order to conserve the biological diversity and the fundamental ecological processes of the ecosystems present, as well as the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and communities with ancestral occupation in these regions of the country, guaranteeing the recognition of their rights to the enjoyment of the territory and the natural resources contained therein.
In addition, Venezuela has 5 wetlands officially listed as “RAMSAR Sites”, according to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (RAMSAR), namely: Cuare Wildlife Refuge (Falcon State), Wildlife Refuge “Ciénaga de Los Olivitos” (Zulia State), National Park “Los Roques Archipelago” (Insular Territory Francisco de Miranda), National Park “Laguna de Tacarigua” (Miranda State), and National Park “Laguna de La Restinga (Nueva Esparta State).
Likewise, in March 2017 the “National Park, Indigenous and Popular Caura” was created, with 7,533,952 hectares, which protects ecosystems in the Bolivar and Amazon States. This National Park located in the third largest river basin of Venezuela, is the largest of the megadiverse countries, where they inhabit at least 422 species of birds, 82 reptiles and 28 amphibians and where there are formations of tepuyes and Precambrian caves.
Centro Simón Bolívar Torre Sur
Municipio Libertador, Distrito Capital, Venezuela.