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Unit 22

CLIMATE, SOIL, PLANTS AND ANIMALS

Unit Overview

This unit provides an overview of upcoming units by examining the general relationships among climate, soil, flora, and fauna. The main sections are as follows

  • Natural geography
  • Conservation and the biosphere

Natural geography is the study of soils, plants, and animals from a spatial perspective. Soils exist at the interface of the lithosphere and the atmosphere, and without water, soil would not exist. When climate, soils, vegetation, and animal life reach a stable adjustment, vegetation constitutes the most visible element of the ecosystem.

Unit Objectives

  • To expand our view of physical geography to include biotic systems operating at the Earth's surface
  • To relate biotic systems to our understanding of global climates
  • To link physical geography to the more general topic of conservation


Glossary of Key Terms

Biodiversity Shorthand for biological diversity; the variety of the Earth's life forms and the ecological roles they play.
Biogeography The geography of plants (pytogeography) and animals (zoogeography).
Conservation The careful management and use of natural resources, the achievement of significant social benefits from them, and the preservation of the natural environment.
Pedology Soil science; the study of soils.
Phytogeography The geography of flora or plant life; where botany and physical geography overlap.
Species A population of physically and chemically similar organisms within which free gene flow takes place.
Sustainable development Conservation movement that the World Commission on Environment and Development defines as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Zoogeography The geography of animal life or fauna; where zoology and physical geography overlap.


Unit Outline

  • Natural geography
    • Constituents
      • soil geography (spatial pedology [soil science])
      • biogeography
      • phytogeography (geography of plants)
      • zoogeography (geography of animals)
  • Geography of soils
    • interface between atmosphere and lithosphere
    • key to plant life
    • soil as a living entity
    • human use and misuse of soils
  • Biogeography
    • species: about 30 million worldwide
    • biodiversity
    • von Humboldt's pioneering work on vegetation systems
    • Wallace's pathbreaking analysis of zoogeographical regions
  • Conservation and the biosphere
    • Human destruction of plant and animal life
    • The movement to develop careful management of environmental resources
    • Case study: the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the U.S. Great Plains
    • Case study: the Tennessee Valley Authority as a government policy response
  • Conservation in the twenty-first century
    • Sustainable development


Review Questions

  1. What is natural geography, and what are its constituent subjects?
  2. What is biodiversity and how does it relate to biogeography?
  3. How do the Dust Bowl and the Tennessee Valley Authority, respectively, reflect human misuse and enlightened management of the natural environment?