Natural Landscape – We explain what a natural landscape is and what its elements are. Also, its main characteristics, examples, and cultural landscape.
What is a natural landscape?
Natural landscapes are those geographical spaces that have not been modified by humans. In contrast, sites altered by human activity are known as cultural landscapes.
The term landscape refers to a part of the earth’s surface that can be seen at a given time from a given place. Originally, the word was used by artists to refer to paintings of nature scenes (such as mountains, forests, rivers, etc.), in which the human presence was omitted.
Geographers took the term from painting and called it the characteristics of a region’s landscape. In the case of a natural landscape, its characteristics include the relief, the climate, and also the living beings that inhabit it.
Strictly speaking, currently, there are almost no natural landscapes, since human action, directly or indirectly, has impacted the entire earth’s surface.
In any case, regions can still be recorded where the interaction between climate and geological and biological elements remains relatively intact. Examples of this are the North Pole and the South Pole, the mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Andes, and desert areas, such as the Sahara or Death Valley, in the Mojave Desert.
In general, these are places that, due to the characteristics of their soil or their climate or altitude, are uninhabitable for humans, and that do not have raw materials that can be exploited.
Natural landscape features
Every natural landscape is recognized by a series of characteristics:
- It takes place in a specific geographical space.
- It has not been modified by humans (at least, in its constitutive aspects). Eventually, there may be some degree of human intervention (such as a bridge or road); Some people can even live there (as happens in the bases that different nations have established in Antarctica).
- It has a relief, a distribution of water, soil, and a particular vegetation, along with climatic conditions that are specific to it and that determine the development of certain animals. These aspects, together, make a natural landscape be perceived as a unit and distinguish it from other natural landscapes.
- Its distinctive features are maintained over time. This does not mean that it is an immutable entity: a natural landscape is subject to continuous modifications, as a consequence of the interactions between its various components.
Natural Landscape Elements
Some of the elements that can be found in a natural landscape, and that will determine its unique characteristics, are the following:
It is the space between whose limits the natural landscape extends.
It includes the different geographical features that are identified within an area. For example, a mountain, a valley, a plain, or a plateau.
It covers the various bodies of water, both surface (rivers, streams, lagoons) and underground (aquifers). It is a fundamental factor in the modeling of relief, in addition to conditioning the development of living beings.
It is the most superficial layer of the Earth’s crust, on which plants settle and microorganisms, fungi, insects and other living beings live. Depending on the material that predominates in its composition, it is classified into several categories (clayey, sandy, humiferous).
It is the vegetal cover. Together with the relief, it constitutes a decisive element in the identification of a natural landscape. The type and distribution of the flora give rise to certain characteristic formations, such as the different types of forest (tropical, boreal, mountain), grassland, scrubland, and taiga.
It is the set of animal species in a natural landscape. The diversity and characteristics of the fauna are closely related to the flora.
They are the general atmospheric conditions of the landscape, considered over time. It is the result of humidity, atmospheric pressure, temperature, and precipitation, among other indicators.
Types of natural landscape
Taking into account their location and relief, natural landscapes can be classified into:
They are located on the border between land and sea. They can be steep, like cliffs, or flat, like beaches; and present land protrusions, such as peninsulas and capes, or maritime inlets, such as bays and gulfs.
They are located inside the continents. It includes, among other formations, mountains, valleys, plateaus, plains, and depressions.
They are the areas of the sea close to the coast and the underwater regions.
Conservation of the natural landscape
In the mid-19th century, evidence of the progressive disappearance of wildlife and the domestication of natural spaces led to the creation of national parks and nature reserves. In these areas, an attempt is made to keep the natural landscape free of disturbances derived from human activity.
For a natural landscape to be declared a protected area, it is taken into account, among other criteria, that it is representative of the various types of reliefs and geological formations and that it plays a significant role in the development of various forms of life.
Many of these natural landscapes, due to their beauty and unique characteristics, are important tourist destinations.
Examples of the natural landscape
Located in the Pacific Ocean, about 900 kilometers from Ecuador, it is an archipelago of volcanic origin. The coastal landscape features cliffs, caves, and beaches; In the interior, volcanoes alternate with steep slopes and undulating terrain.
Located between Argentina and Brazil, it is the largest group of waterfalls in the world. It has 275 jumps, which can reach 80 meters in height.
This active volcano is located in Italy, in front of the Bay of Naples. It is part of a group of volcanoes that extend across the Campania region.
It is located in the United States, north of the state of Arizona. It is a narrow, elongated opening, carved into the rock by the Colorado River over millions of years. It measures about 400 kilometers long and, on average, has a depth of 800 meters, reaching 1,600 meters in some sections. The arid and rocky landscape is made up of caves and gigantic rock formations with several layers.
The Black Forest
Located in the southeast of Germany, this mountain range is characterized by its dense vegetation and the various rivers and lakes that run through it.
Natural and Cultural Landscape
Any natural landscape that has been modified by humans is a cultural landscape. Cultural landscapes are very varied: it can be a cultivated field, a lake created by the construction of a dam, or a city.
Generally, a cultural landscape is recognized by the presence of these elements:
That is a group of people who live and share the same area and who interact with each other.
The set of facilities and systems necessary for the development of human activities (factories, shops, schools, transportation networks, etc.).
The set of products, that is, raw materials that have been modified to obtain some good or service.
Man’s ability to modify a natural landscape has increased over time, thanks to the development of technology. One of the most notable examples of this occurred with the Industrial Revolution, which produced an increase in the quantity and pace of extraction of raw materials, gave rise to the construction of kilometers of railways and infrastructure works (bridges, canals, ports ) and promoted the growth of cities, among other effects on the landscape.
The direct alteration of any element of a natural landscape indirectly has effects on other elements of the landscape. For example, the felling of native forests is in itself a modification of the vegetation that makes up a landscape; but, in addition, doing so increases the rate of soil erosion carried out by rain and wind.