The Andes are the longest exposed mountain ranges in the world. They stretch across 700 kilometers along the western coast of South America. The Andes are 200 to 700 km wide and reach an average height of 13000 feet. The ranges run over seven countries viz. Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru. The peaks of the Andes Mountains are the second highest after the Himalayas. Aconcagua of Argentina is the highest peak that elevates to a height of 22840 sq.ft. above the sea level. Some of the longest stretches include Cordillera Oriental and Cordillera Occidental separated by depressions in between.
The Andes are Fold Mountains that are formed due to the collision between South American plate and Nazca plate. The Nazca plate is a heavier oceanic crust and hence is submerged below the South American plate. Since the South American plate is less dense, it is placed at the apex of the subduction zone formed due to the convergence of these two plates. In this collision, the rocks from the South American plate get crumpled to form Fold Mountains. These two plates continuously try to overlap each other giving rise to earthquakes and volcanoes. Some of the volcanoes such as Aconcagua reached to a height of 6962 m. Similarly depths or trenches are formed at the periphery of South American plates and Nazca plates. The Peru-Chile trench in the West of Andes Mountains forms an unbelievable depth of 8066 m below the sea level.
In Peru, the Andes ranges are divided into two zones: the western volcanic range and the eastern mountain range. These two ranges join together at the boundary of Chile and Argentina. Some of the important ranges of the Andes Mountains include:
The climate is not the same throughout the Andes. The ranges of Andes are divided into three regions: central, northern and southern region. Being close to equator, the northern regions are hotter. This region is mainly covered with rain forests due to heavy precipitation and humid conditions. The southern region is very close to Antarctic and hence weather is extremely cold. The central region lies between the equator and the Antarctic. Hence weather in these parts is mild and conducive for growth of large varieties of flora and fauna.
Apart from eco-tourism, some of the common needs that Andes help with are:
Farming and Livestock Rearing: The slopes of Andes Mountains are regularly used for farming, especially the floors of the valleys. The people in this region make use of indigenous technique of digging terraces on the sides of the valley and using this land for producing food. The crops produced on these slopes are maize, cotton, soya, rice and cotton. The major staple crop of the Andes is potato. Llamas ( a South American camelid) have been used as mode of transition in the Andes. Alpaca (a domesticated camelid) are reared in the Andes Mountains to produce wool.
Hydroelectric power: The Andes are a home to rivers and deep valley and hence offer huge potential for producing hydroelectric power. The valleys are narrow and provide ideal conditions for building dams and steep slopes increases velocities of water that is helpful in electricity generation.
Mining: The Andes Mountains have a large treasure of minerals including coal, oil, iron ore, natural gas, silver, tin, copper, phosphates, nitrates, bauxite and gold. Yanacocha, the biggest gold mine in the world is located in the Andes Mountain ranges of Peru.