Saturday, March 20, 2010


Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast. Its area is 108,890 km² (42,043 mi²) with an estimated population of 13,276,517.
A representative democracy, its capital is Guatemala City. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.

Guatemala is mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands of Petén department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains. All major cities are located in the highlands and Pacific coast regions; by comparison, Petén is sparsely populated. These three regions vary in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between hot and humid tropical lowlands and colder and drier highland peaks. Volcán Tajumulco, at 4,220 meters, is the highest point in the Central American states.
The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific drainage basin, larger and deeper in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico drainage basins, which include the Polochic and Dulce Rivers, which drain into Lake Izabal, the Motagua River, the Sarstún that forms the boundary with Belize, and the Usumacinta River, which forms the boundary between Petén and Chiapas, Mexico.
Guatemala has long claimed all or part of the territory of neighbouring Belize, formerly part of the Spanish colony, and currently an independent Commonwealth Realm which recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. Guatemala recognized Belize's independence in 1990, but their territorial dispute is not resolved. Negotiations are currently underway under the auspices of the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth of Nations to conclude it.
The country has 14 ecoregions ranging from Mangrove forests, to both ocean littorals with 5 different ecosystems. Guatemala has 252 listed wetlands, including 5 lakes, 61 lagoons, 100 rivers, and 4 swamps.[20] Tikal National Park, was the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guatemala is a country of distinct fauna. It has some 1246 known species. Of these, 6.7% are endemic and 8.1% are threatened. Guatemala is home to at least 8681 species of vascular plants, of which 13.5% are endemic. 5.4% of Guatemala is protected under IUCN categories I-V.
In the department of Petén lies the Maya Biosphere Reserve of 2,112,940 ha, making it the second largest forest in Central America after Bosawas.

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