Lakes and Reservoirs

Taken as a whole, South America is predominantly a rivers continent. In fact, many floodplain lakes, lagoons and reservoirs originate from rivers; particularly, from the Amazon, Orinoco and Parana-Plata rivers, which rank among the largest river systems of the world. On the other hand, the proportion of 'archetypical' lakes is relatively small, and they could hardly compete for the size record with lakes in other continents. Nevertheless, South America does have a great number and diversity of lakes. In addition, its location in a predominantly maritime hemisphere offers a unique opportunity for comparing empirical patterns developed originally for Northern Hemisphere lakes.

The previous section described three factors that determine the diversity of standing waters in South America: geography, geomorphology and climate. Important morphological features, such as lake size and shape are largely a consequence of the processes that created the basins (for a detailed description of

Figure 1a Detailed scheme of main geomorphologic features of South America.

Figure 1b Summary of main geomorphologic and climatic features of South America. Reprinted from http://www.pc.uottawa.ca/data/americas/samerica/sam_large.jpg.

Figure 1b Summary of main geomorphologic and climatic features of South America. Reprinted from http://www.pc.uottawa.ca/data/americas/samerica/sam_large.jpg.

the origin of lake basins and abundance of lakes refer to 'See also' section). As most of these processes act on regional scales, morphologically similar lakes tend to be grouped in clusters, or lake districts. In order to provide a simplified account of the main limnological characteristics of lakes and reservoirs of South America, we have grouped lakes according to a hybrid arrangement that mixes geomorphologic and climatic features as follows:

1. Natural basins:

a. Andean lakes:

i. Tropical mountain lakes:

ii. Temperate mountain lakes:

b. Inland lowland lakes:

iii. Tropical lowland lakes iv. Temperate lowland lakes c. Coastal lagoons

2. Human-made basins a. Reservoirs b. Various types of excavations

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