With its expansive territory, Brazil occupies most of the eastern part of the South American continent and its geographic heartland, as well as various islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The only countries in the world that are larger are Russia, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, and the United States (including Alaska). The national territory extends 4,395 kilometres (2,731 mi) from north to south (5ø16’20” N to 33ø44’32” S latitude) and 4,319 kilometres (2,684 mi) from east to west (34ø47’30” W to 73ø59’32” W longitude). It spans three time zones, the westernmost of which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. The time zone of the capital (Brasília) and of the most populated part of Brazil along the east coast (UTC-3) is two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, except when it is on its own daylight saving time, from October to February. The Atlantic islands are in the easternmost time zone.
Brazil possesses the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, located 350 kilometres (217 mi) northeast of its “horn”, and several small islands and atolls in the Atlantic – Abrolhos, Atol das Rocas, Penedos de São Pedro e São Paulo, Trindade, and Martim Vaz. In the early 1970s, Brazil claimed a territorial sea extending 362 kilometres (225 mi) from the country’s shores, including those of the islands.
On Brazil’s east coast, the Atlantic coastline extends 7,367 kilometres (4,578 mi). In the west, in clockwise order from the south, Brazil has 15,719 kilometres (9,767 mi) of borders with Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The only South American countries with which Brazil does not share borders are Chile and Ecuador. A few short sections are in question, but there are no true major boundary controversies with any of the neighbouring countries.
It has within it five eco-systems, the tropical rainforest, the pantanal, the cerrado, the mata atlantica and the pampas and surrounding areas.
1) Central West
The Brazilian states
Brazil’s twenty-six states and the Federal District (Distrito Federal) are divided conventionally into five regions: North (Norte), Northeast (Nordeste), Southeast (Sudeste), South (Sul), and Centre-West (Centro-Oeste). In 1996 there were 5,581 municipalities (municípios), which have municipal governments. Many municipalities, which are comparable to United States counties, are in turn divided into districts (distritos), which do not have political or administrative autonomy. In 1995 there were 9,274 districts.
All municipal and district seats, regardless of size, are considered officially to be urban. For purely statistical purposes, the municipalities were grouped in 1990 into 559 micro-regions, which in turn constituted 136 meso-regions. This grouping modified the previous micro-regional division established in 1968, a division that was used to present census data for 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1985.
Each of the five major regions has a distinct ecosystem. Administrative boundaries do not necessarily coincide with ecological boundaries, however. In addition to differences in physical environment, patterns of economic activity and population settlement vary widely among the regions. The principal ecological characteristics of each of the five major regions, as well as their principal socio-economic and demographic features, are summarised below.