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    Land of winds > The land > Geography | Issue 19 (May.-Jun. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Tarija, chura land

Tarija, chura land

The department of Tarija is located to the south of Bolivia, between Paraguay, Argentina and the Bolivian departments of Potosí and Chuquisaca. It stretches from the Andean mountains (to the west) to the lowlands of the Northern Chaco (to the east), spans different ecological zones, and therefore includes a wide range of attractive and varied landscapes.

Several mountain ranges detached from the Cordillera de Lípez (southern part of the Bolivian Central Cordillera) mark Tarija's western border, occupying one-third of the department. As we move to the east, Andean mountains descend into the Altiplano or puna of Sama (4,600-3,300 metres high), a high plain covered by pasture, tolares, bushes of yaretas, small forests of quewiña, lakes (Pujzara, Pasajes, Grande), dunes (Tajzara) and wetlands (bofedales), and inhabited by Andean camelids, foxes, deers, condors and many species of aquatic birds. Going further east lies the pre-puna, carpeted by cardones (giant cacti) and forests of churqui, and below 2,500 metres, the sub-Andean valleys are covered by yungas or cloud forests. The yungas region (which extends to the south into Argentina and to the north into the Bolivian departments of Cochabamba and La Paz) has two levels in Tarija: the higher yunga (pine, alder and cedar forests) and the lower yunga "ramal" or "enramada" (rainforest with high biodiversity).

Tarija Department, in Wikipedia.
Article. "Tarija por regiones", in Tarija Destino Turístico [es].
Article. "El altiplano de Sama: Geografía y ecología", in Proyecto Arqueológico Altiplano de Sama [es].
Article. "La belleza escondida del altiplano tarijeño invita al turismo exótico", in El País [es].

Picture 01. Altiplano of Sama 01.
Picture 02. Altiplano of Sama 02.
Picture 03. Altiplano of Sama 03. Inca road.
Picture 04. Altiplano of Sama 04.
Picture 05. Dunes of Tajzara.
Picture 06. Pasajes Lake.
Picture 07. Tarija's yungas.

The central one-third of the department is occupied by several sierras which trend north-southerly, parallel to the Andean range, including the Serranía de Sama (which continues into Argentina, where it is called the Serranía de Santa Victoria) and the Serranía de Tarija, and the lower ranges known as Quebrada Honda, Tascara, Yunchará and Chorcoya. These ranges have several important peaks (e.g. Cerro Morro Negro 4.344 metres, in the Serranía de Sama), and enclose the famous "valles tarijeños" (Tarija's valleys), including the Valle Central (where it is located the department's capital city, Tarija) and the Valle de la Concepción (well-known by its vineyards and wines).

Finally, in the western one-third of Tarija's territory extend Los Llanos of the northern Chaco, and rise the "serranías" (ranges) of Caiza, Capirenda and the Ibibobo (southern part of the Bolivian Eastern Cordillera). Los Llanos consist of grassland plains (pampas) and dry forests (monte); and further to the south, the alluvial plains of the Pilcomayo and Bermejo rivers.

Rivers within the Tarija's hydrographical network born in the Andes and the nearby foothills and flow in a south-easterly direction forming part of La Plata basin. The main ones are the Pilcomayo and its tributary San Juan del Oro-Camblaya-Pilaya, and the Bermejo and its tributaries Nuevo Guadalquivir, Tarija, Grande de Tarija, Itaú, Soledad, Tolomosa, Santa Ana and Santa Rosa.

Pilcomayo River, in Wikipedia.
Bermejo River, in Wikipedia.

Picture 08. Serranía de Sama (mountain range).
Picture 09. Serranía del Aguaragüe.
Picture 10. The Angostura Canyon, Central Valley of Tarija.
Picture 11. Vineyards in the Central Valley of Tarija.
Picture 12. Tarija's valleys.
Picture 13. Serranía de Caiza.
Picture 14. Guadalquivir River.
Picture 15. Tarija's landscape.

Temperatures in Tarija vary from the severe cold in the highlands to the dry heat prevailing in the prickly groves of Chaco. Climate in the central valleys, where most towns lie (Tarija, San Lorenzo, Entrerríos), is temperate and lacking in extremes, while the yungas receive heavy rainfalls and feature an incredible wealth of wildlife.

There is a great diversity of agricultural and livestock production systems depending on the ecological zones and climate. Small goat and sheep flocks are reared on the pastures of the highlands under an extensive management system, while lands in the yungas are used for intensive agriculture, mostly fruits and coca. Temperate valleys are devoted to wine, "singanis" (a type of Bolivian liquor), citric fruit and vegetable production, while sugar cane plantations and intensive livestock farming are located in the Chaco region.

For the conservation of Tarija's biological and landscape diversity, a number of protected areas have been established, such as the Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve, Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve, the Doce-Alarachi River National Park, the Aragüe National Park and Integrated Management National Area, the El Corbalán Reserve and the Cabo Juan National Reserve. The first one is the country's most important protected area, including part of the Altiplano, several highland lakes (which are home to over 30 bird species, including Andean flamingoes), old-growth forests of cardones and quewiñas and the shores of the San Juan del Oro River.

Reserva Biológica de la Cordillera de Sama, in Wikipedia [es].
Reserva Nacional de Flora y Fauna de Tariquía, in Wikipedia [es].
Parque nacional y área natural de manejo integrado Aguaragüe, in Wikipedia [es].

Picture 16. City of Tarija 01.
Picture 17. City of Tarija 02.
Picture 18. Tariquia Reserve.
Picture 19. Aguaragüe National Park.
Picture 20. Pilcomayo River.

Picture A

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