The population distribution in Brazil can be explained by considering two factors, the physical factors and the historical factors within the five regions in Brazil, which are the North, North East, Centre West, South East and the South region. The population is mainly found on the narrow coastal plain trapped by the escarpment of the Brazilian Highlands. In the Rio de Janeiro area, the coastal plain is so narrow that it almost reaches the sea.
The coastal plain stretches from the towns of Natal, Recife and Salvador in the North East corner, through towns such as Rio de Janeiro and Santos in the South East through to Porto Alegre in the far South. The coastal plain has a tropical climate and originally tropical rainforest in the central area around Rio de Janeiro. The coastal section of the North East originally had a mixture of forest and savanna vegetation.
There are links between Brazils population distribution and historical and physical features, such as the main area of higher population in Brazil is found in a band running from the Northeast corner of Brazil, Recife through Rio de Janeiro to Portro Alegre in the far South, Brazils core periphery. Since most of Brazil is populated from the outside, the Northeast developed as the closest part of Brazil to Portugal due to the Popes declaration in 1500 of Treaty of Tordesillas.
This divided the world between just two countries, Spain and Portugal. This gave Portugal the northeast corner of Brazil, which they cleared for the hardwood timbers, such as mahogany for furniture and for the production of coloured dyes. Having cleared the timber, the lowland areas were used to produce sugar cane due to the suitable tropical climate. The sweetener that had been previously used in Europe was honey, which was now subsisted by sugar.
The Rio de Janeiro area developed to export minerals such as gold and diamonds from Minas Gerais (Portuguese for generally mines literally meaning that there were many mines located there) in the Brazilian Highlands after 1750 when the Treaty of Tordesillas was no longer followed due to the uniting of Portugal and Spain. The Sertao area between North East and Centre West region is where there is long and frequent water balance deficit resulting in drought, high temperatures and poor soils.
These combine to make the area unsuitable for growing high yielding crops or for the rearing of good quality animals. The area has vegetation called Caatinga and mainly consists of cactuses and thorn bushes due to the harsh, dry climate. The Sertao also lacks known mineral or energy reserves; communications are poor; and the basic services of health, education, clean water and electricity are lacking. Although birth rates are exceptionally high, there is a rapid outward migration to the urban areas, a high infant mortality rate and a short life expectancy.
The Amazon Basin has very few people because of its thick vegetation cover, poor soils and high convectional rainfall levels. The River Amazon and its tributaries drain the tropical rainforest, which is located in the interior of Brazil, the Centre West region. The climate is hot usually around 28 degrees centigrade, wet and humid; rivers flood annually; and there is a high incidence of disease. In the past, the forest has proved difficult to clear, but once the protective trees have been demolished, soils are rapidly leached and become infertile.
Land communications are difficult to build and maintain. The area has suffered, as has the North East region, from lack of federal investment and can only support subsistence economies, such as those found deep within the forest. There are, however, two irregularities in Amazonia, the North region. The first is a zone along the River Amazon centred on Manaus where there is a high population density. Originally a Portuguese trading post, Manaus has had two growth periods.
The first was associated with the rubber boom at the turn of the century in 1890, while the second began in the 1980s with the development of tourism and the granting of its new status as a free port. The second irregularity followed the recent exploitation of several minerals, iron ore at Carajas; and bauxite at Trombetas, all of which were found in the Amazon area, as well as energy resources, such as hydroelectricity at Tucuri, which attracted new migrants to develop these ores.
The North is a recent growth pole based on the discovery and exploitation of vast deposits of iron ore and bauxite, the construction of hydroelectric power stations and the advantages of access along the coastal strip and the Amazon corridor. However it has major physical problems in the form of drought and this pushed people from the North East who are then attracted to the South East. The greatest movements have been out of the North East region where successive drought has led to crop failure, famine and poverty.
The dominant direction of movement has been to the large urban areas in the South East region including So Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The migration has reduced the problems of overpopulation in the North East by relieving some pressure on food supplies, water and fuel wood but the area now has fewer economically active young dependants. The push factors of the North East region are: Low unreliable rainfall often less than 750mm Periodic droughts and crop failure Poverty, food shortages leading to starvation and malnutrition Polluted supply of drinking water
Limited employment opportunities and low wages Few people own their land Overpopulation High mortality rates especially amongst the young Infertile soils, often salty or leached Lack of educational opportunities Brazil being so large, lack of physical/financial access to doctors Pushed from land by big hydroelectric power schemes. Pull factors of the South East region: A belief that life in the city will be better Migrants have a positive image of the city from the media and friends/relatives Better paid jobs available in factories More employment opportunities – work can be gained in the informal sector
More comfortable housing and better quality of life than in the rural areas Better physical/financial access to education and other services, e. g. medical care, entertainment More reliable resources of food. Smaller scale movements into the interior of Brazil reflect the opening up of the rainforest in the North and the establishment of Brasilia, the new federal capital in the Centre West. It was built in the early 1960s to try to redress the imbalance in population density and wealth between the southeast of the country and the interior.
The government provided various inducements for people to move into the rainforest such as free housing and land. However, the transmigration has not always been successful due to the difficulties in establishing permanent cultivation on the infertile soils. More long-time migration is associated with employment in the logging and mining companies. Except where the highland reaches the sea, the eastern parts of the plateau around So Paulo and Belo Horizonte and the east coast have the highest population densities. The climate is cooler and it is considerably healthier than on the coast and in the rainforest.
The soil, in parts, is a rich terra rossa which is a weathered volcanic soil ideal for the growing of coffee. However, rainfall is irregular with a long winter drought; communications are still limited; and federal investment has been insufficient to stimulate much population growth. Although the coastal area is often hot and humid, the water supply is good. Several natural harbours proved ideal for ports and this encouraged trade and the growth of industry. Salvador, the first capital, was the centre of the slave trade. Rio de Janeiro became the second capital, developing as an economic, cultural and administrative centre.
More recently, it has received increasing numbers of tourists from overseas and migrants from the North region of Brazil. A sustainable level of population for the future was first recognised in Rio de Janeiro and was then reinforced in other countries, such as Johannesburg in 2002. The fastest growing city in the world, other than Mexico City, is So Paulo in the South East region. So Paulo grew because they were cooler than the coast as they were at altitude on the Brazilian Highlands and because of the southeast trade winds.
The terra rossa soils initially led to the growth of commercial farming based on coffee. The money created by the coffee boom stayed in Brazil this allowed towns such as So Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to grow even more, creating geographical inertia. Access to minerals such as iron ore and to energy supplies later made it a major industrial centre. The So Paulo area has had high levels of federal investment, leading to the development of a good transport infrastructure and the provisions of modern services; this encouraged the growth of manufacturing industries more recently.
The South East region became a rich area attracting migrants from all over Brazil due to the new product boom in the 1950s. Transnational corporations such as Ford, Fiat, Volkswagen, Honda and Nissan came into the area and set up factories. Other multinationals such as IBM and Coca cola followed. The main concentrations of population are mostly on the edges of continents. 75 per cent of the worlds population lives within 1000km of the sea, and 67 per cent within 500km of the sea, as with Brazil. Over 90 per cent of Brazilians live in a discontinuous strip about 500km wide, adjacent to the east coast.
This strip accounts for less than 25 per cent of the countrys total area. The density declines very rapidly towards the northwest, where several remote areas are almost entirely lacking permanent settlement. There is a wide range of physical and human factors that influence population distribution and population density within a country, such as Brazil. The major physical influences include climate; soil; altitude; relief and rivers, whereas the location of economic resources; employment opportunities and energy resources are the key human factors.