The Guiana Shield is one of the three cratons of the South American Plate. It is a 1.7 billion year old Precambrian geological formation in northeast South America that forms a portion of the northern coast. The higher elevations on the shield are called the Guiana Highlands, which is where the impressive and mysterious table-like mountains called tepuis are found. The Guiana Highlands are also the source of some of the world's most spectacular waterfalls such as Angel Falls, Kaieteur Falls and Kuquenan Falls.
The Guiana Shield underlies Guyana (previously British Guiana), Suriname (previously Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana (or Cayenne), as well as parts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. The rocks of the Guiana Shield consist of metasediments and metavolcanics (greenstones) overlain by quasi-horizontal layers of sandstones, quartzites, shales and conglomerates intruded by sills of younger mafic intrusives such as gabbros.
There are three upland areas of the Guiana Shield:
The north-central part of the Guiana Highlands is dominated by high flat-topped peaks called tepuis, of the Roraima supergroup and Quasi-Roraima formation, and the rounded granite peaks of the Parguaza and Imataca complexes to the north and southwestern edges of the area. The highest tepui is Monte Roraima at 2,810 m (9,219 ft), on whose top plateau the Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil border tripoint is located, but the Guiana Shield's highest point is Pico da Neblina in Brazil (next to the Venezuelan border) at 2,994 m (9,822 ft). Pico da Neblina is not a tepui but a rather sharp peak, and is located far to the west and south of the area where tepuis are found.
The Guiana Shield is one of the regions of highest biodiversity in the world. The Shield has 1400 vertebrate species and 1680 bird species. The Shield is overlain by the largest expanse of undisturbed tropical rain forest in the world. Guianan rain forest is similar in nature to Amazonian rain forest and known Protected Areas include the Iwokrama Forest of central Guyana and the Kanuku National Park of southern Guyana. In Venezuela the forests are protected by the Canaima, Kaieteur, Parima-Tapirapeco and Neblina National Parks.
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