Santa Catarina is one of the Brazilian states in which the influence of different groups of European immigrants has become more visible – German, Portuguese, Italian, Austrian. Its beaches, hydro-mineral resorts and mountains – which in some places are covered with snow in winter – are important tourist attractions.
The state of Santa Catarina occupies an area of 95.443km2 in the southern region of Brazil. With the approximate shape of a triangle with a vertex facing west, it is limited to the north with Paraná, to the east with the Atlantic Ocean, to the south with Rio Grande do Sul and to the west with Argentina. Its capital is Florianópolis.
Geology and relief. With 77% of its territory above 300m of altitude and 52% above 600m, Santa Catarina is among the most important Brazilian states. Four units, which follow from east to west, make up the morphological picture: the coastal lowlands, the Serra do Mar, the paleozoic plateau and the basaltic plateau.
The coastal lowland comprises the lands located below 200m of altitude. To the north, it widens considerably, penetrating inland along the valleys of the rivers that descend from the Serra do Mar. To the south, it narrows progressively. The Serra do Mar dominates the coastal lowlands to the west. Except in the north of the state, where it forms the steep edge of a more or less regular plateau, the mountain has a very different character than it does in other states, such as Paraná and São Paulo. In Santa Catarina, it forms a mountainous strip, approximately 1,000 meters high, consisting of a set of massifs isolated by the deep valleys of the rivers that drain into the Atlantic.
Behind the Serra do Mar extends the paleozoic plateau, whose flat surface is fragmented into compartments isolated by the rivers that flow eastwards. The paleozoic plateau loses height from north to south; in the southern part of the state it is confused with the coastal plain, since the Serra do Mar does not reach this part of Santa Catarina.
The basaltic plateau occupies most of the state. Formed by layers of basalt (lava flows), interspersed with layers of sandstone, it is limited to the east by a steep ledge called the Serra Geral. In the north of the state, the border of the basalt plateau is inland; to the south it gradually approaches the coast until, at the limit of Rio Grande do Sul, it begins to fall directly on the sea. The surface of the plateau is regular and slopes smoothly to the west. The rivers that flow to Paraná opened deep valleys in it.
Two climatic types characterize the state of Santa Catarina: the humid subtropical with hot summers (Cfa) and the humid subtropical with mild summers (Cfb). The Cfa type occurs in the coastal lowlands and in the lower parts of the plateau (western end and Uruguay River valley). It registers average annual temperatures of 20 ° C, in the lowlands and valley of Uruguay, and 18 ° C, in the extreme west; rainfall, well distributed throughout the year, reaches 1,500 mm annually.
The Cfb type occurs in the rest of the plateau. Records annual average temperatures of 18 ° and 16 ° C. The difference between winter and summer temperatures is quite pronounced, with an annual thermal amplitude greater than 90 ° C. Winters are very harsh: there are, in certain areas, more than 25 days of frost per year. The rainfall is similar to the previous type. The singular fact, however, is that a small part of it occurs in the form of snow (São Joaquim region).
The rivers that flow through the territory of Santa Catarina belong to two independent systems, whose dividing waters are the Serra Geral and Serra do Mar. The Atlantic slope system is formed by isolated basins, such as those of the Itajaí-Açu rivers, Tubarão, Araranguá, Tijucas and Itapocu.
In the interior of the state, two basins join to form the Prata basin: that of the Paraná River, which has the main tributary of the Iguaçu River, and that of the Uruguay River, whose most important tributaries are the Pelotas, Canoas, Chapecó and the Fish.
The original vegetation cover of the state comprises two types of formation: forests and fields. Forests, which occupied 65% of Santa Catarina’s territory, were significantly reduced due to devastation. However, tree planting has grown, thanks to government incentives and the development of the timber industry. On the plateau, they appear in the form of mixed coniferous (araucaria) and broadleaf forests and, in the lowlands and slopes of the Serra do Mar, only as broadleaved forest. The fields occur as scattered patches within the mixed forest. The most important are those of São Joaquim, Lajes, Curitibanos and Campos Novos.
In the 18th century, the influx of Azoreans and Madeirans, and of Germans, Italians and Slavs, in the 19th century, gave the population of Santa Catarina a remarkable ethnic diversity. The inhabitants of the state are evenly distributed throughout the state. The highest concentrations of population occur in the coastal strip, while the lowest are in the interior of the plateau, in countryside areas, where agriculture gives way to cattle breeding. In the other parts of the plateau, the agricultural occupation of the old forest soils ensures densities equivalent to the state average.
The state of Santa Catarina is partly located in the area of influence of the city of São Paulo, partly in that of Porto Alegre. The metropolis of São Paulo dominates the entire northern half, where its action is felt in the intermediate centers of Florianópolis and Blumenau, while the capital of Rio Grande do Sul dominates the south, through the more modest centers of Lajes and Joaçaba. The biggest cities, besides the capital, Florianópolis, are Joinville, Blumenau, Itajaí, São José, Lajes, Chapecó and Criciúma.