Puna de Atacama
Puna de Atacama
a high mountain zone consisting of inland tablelands and plateaus in the Central Andes of South America. The Puna de Atacama is located between 8° and 29° S lat., at an elevation of 3,500 to 4,600 m. Weakly undulating plains with depressions occupied by lakes (Lake Titicaca, Lake Poopó), ancient lake beds, swamps, and salt marshes predominate in the relief. In the southwest there are volcanic cones. In the north the tablelands are cut by deep river gorges; in the central and southern sections there are few streams and no drainage to the ocean.
The climate is high-mountain tropical, with cool rainy summers and cold dry winters. The average November temperature is 5°-10°C, and the average July temperature is -2° to 6°C. Annual precipitation reaches 1,000 mm in the north and less than 200 mm in the south. There are significant ranges in daily (to 20°–25°C) and extreme (to 40°–45°C) temperatures. Strong winds are common, and the weather is changeable.
The soils vary from high-mountain steppe soils to red-brown desert soils and, frequently, solonchak. The vegetation in the more humid northern, central, and eastern sections of the Puna is grassy steppe with individual xerophilous shrubs (jalca). The dry western section (between 14° and 20° S lat. and eastward) has desert vegetation (puna and tola). In the extreme south there is desert vegetation with sparse saltworts, and pulvinate plants are common.
The Puna is used for pasturing llamas, alpacas, mules, and sheep. The basins and valleys below 4,000 m are mostly under grain and potato cultivation.
E. N. LUKASHOVA