Northern Chilean-Southern Peruvian BioProvince

This BioProvince (as partially defined by Armen Takhtajan) comprises the coastal deserts and semi-deserts of Chile and Peru including the Atacama Desert and the lowlands and semi-uplands of northern Chile. The zone extends from southern Peru to northern Chile with its southern boundary roughly coinciding with the town of Coquimbo. Deserts and semi-deserts form a continuous belt along this western escarpment of the Andean Cordillera for some 3500 km. The geology is complex and varied but the area borders the so-called ring of fire and so hosts a number of active volcanoes. The Great Chilean Earthquake or Valdivian Earthquake in 1960 has the dubious distinction of being the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The Atacama is said to be the driest place on the Planet and in places the soils are thought to be similar to those found on the planet Mars in being virtually devoid of any evidence of life or organic matter. This hyperaridity is due in part to the extreme rainshadow effect of the high Andes, which stops the advection of tropical moisture from the Amazon Basin, and also because of a temperature inversion caused by the cold, north flowing Humboldt Current, which limits inland penetration of Pacific moisture. However in the coastal zones, seasonal fog allows the development of ‘fog-zone’ vegetation known as lomas formations. These deserts support some 1200 species of vascular plants (including many endemic species), but most are restricted to the fog-zones. Most of the endemic genera are found in southern Peru and the northern Atacama and include the mostly Peruvian genera, Dictyophragmus, Islaya, Mathewsia and Weberbaueriella, and the mostly Chilean genera Copiapoa, Dinemandra, Domeykoa, Eulychnia, Gymnophyton, Gypothamnium and Oxyphyllum.

The following accounts for this BioProvince have been written or will be written with particular reference to endemic and locally important species. Accounts available are displayed in green or yellow. Those displayed in red are either in the pipeline or awaiting expert contributions.


Major Ecosystems
Endemic Vascular Plant Flora
Bryophyte Flora
Fungus Flora
Lichen Flora
Invertebrate Fauna
Amphibian Fauna
Reptile Fauna
Bird Fauna
Mammal Fauna
Conservation Status