Two obvious elements must concur to form a lake: a source of water and a land depression capable of storing water. Basin size matters, as deep lakes often stratify for long periods, while shallow lakes tend to mix more often or even continuously. The magnitude of water supply matters, as it affects the residence time and the tendency for diluting or concentrating solutes (i.e., salts, organic matter). Geographic location and climate matter, as they determine rain patterns, hydrologic periods, and the amount of solar and wind energy impinging upon the surface. Elevation and position within the landscape matter, as they affect daily and seasonal thermal amplitude, as well as the likelihood of receiving allochthonous inputs. South America is a diverse continent in terms of geomorphology and climates, which in turn translates into a wide diversity of lake types. In addition, South America is located in a predominantly maritime hemisphere. All in all, South America offers the opportunity to contrast empirical relationships developed for Northern Hemisphere lakes.

In this chapter, we summarize the salient geomor-phologic features of the continent, its climate, and the main forces that have created its lakes. Then, we introduce the main types of lake exemplified by a few selected lakes.

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