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Venezuela´s Eco Regions

 

Paraguana xeric scrub 

The ecoregion, called the Paraguaná xeric scrubland, is located in arid and semi-arid
areas of northwestern Venezuela between 10° and 12° north latitude. This is paradoxical,
however, because abundant precipitation would be expected with this geographic
location. Walter (1973) suggests that this is due to the high drying power of the trade
winds blowing constantly all along the coastal plain. Lahey (1973) attributes it to the
combined effect of a high pressure center and the thermal contrast between the sea and the
continent. Medina (1985) points out that besides reduced precipitation, there is also an
effect on the distribution of rain, both on a daily and annual basis. Díaz (1988) concludes
that there is erratic distribution in time and space. The high-velocity northeast trade
winds combined with the presence of soils with high salt content, principally calcite, have given
rise to a very specific composition of flora and fauna, with ecophysiological adaptations that
allow them to survive in these extreme environments (Díaz 1984, Alarcón 1990, Alarcón & Díaz
1993). 

Location and General Description 

This ecoregion lies within two physiographic provinces of the four existing in the
northwest region of Venezuela: the coastal plains where the Paraguaná peninsula and
the depression valleys of Lara and Falcón stand out, adjacent to the Andean
piedmont (Maraven 1988). The xeric scrubland of Paraguaná develops on flat lands,
with landscape on hills and the piedmont. This topographic variability generates
contrasts in the composition of the flora in areas that are relatively close to each
other. Thus, in the seaside plains herbaceous-bushy vegetation develops on
complexes of mobile dune and saline depressions. Moving inland, xerophytic
elements and deciduous trees develop, alternating with evergreens that sometimes
form true woody masses. 

Geologically, the peninsula was an island in the Pliocene that was joined to dry land by the
isthmus of Médanos during the Holocene (Feo-Codecido 1968). The sands of the present-day
dunes are very recent and are constantly renewed by material coming from the Vela Gulf. On the
coast, sandy and sandy-silty beaches predominate, generally with very turbid waters (Carmona
and Conde 1989). Toward the interior of the peninsula there is a hilly landscape where the Santa
Ana Ridge stands out as the only elevation (830 m. ASL). The vegetation that develops there,
due to the mass effect, includes the following types of vegetation: thorny plants located in the
piedmont (0 a 300 m), deciduous basimontane tropophilous forests (300 to 550 m), cloud forests
(550 a 700), Antillan scrubland (700 a 800), consisting of small trees with bush-like
characteristics, and pseudo-paramo vegetation (800 to 830 m) with dwarf woody plants (Tamayo
1971). With the exception of the first type, the others are far from forming a part of today’s
ecoregion. These basimontane forests and cloud forests have heights varying from low to
medium, and are generally very dense with two stories and developed undergrowth. The most
common species include: Protium tovarense, Tetrochidium rubrivenium, Hieronyma
moritziana var. fendlieri, Aichomea triplinervia, Qualea calophylla, Laplacea fruticosa,
Graffenrieda latifolia, Clusia multiflora, Didymopanax glabratum, Ladenbergia moritziana,
Carica microcarpa, Chamaedorea sp., Geonoma div sp. Catoblastus prae-morsus. Endemic
species includes: Geonoma paraguanensis, Philodendrum holtonianum, Rodospatha
falconensis (Huber and Alarcón 1988). 

                     


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