Human Impact on the Natural Environment
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Human Impact on the Natural Environment

Andrew S. Goudie

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eBook - ePub

Human Impact on the Natural Environment

Andrew S. Goudie

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About This Book

A brand new edition of the definitive textbook on humankind's impact on the Earth's environment—now in full color

This classic text explores the multitude of impacts that humans have had over time upon vegetation, animals, soils, water, landforms, and the atmosphere. It considers the ways in which climate changes and modifications in land cover may change the environment in coming decades. Thoroughly revised to cover the remarkable transformation in interest that humans are having in the environment, this book examines previously uncovered topics, such as rewilding, ecosystem services, techniques for study, novel and no analogue ecosystems, and more. It also presents the latest views on big themes such as human origins, the anthropocene, domestication, extinctions, and ecological invasions.

Extensively re-written, Human Impact on the Natural Environment, Eighth Edition contains many new and updated statistical tables, figures, and references. It offers enlightening chapters that look at the past and present state of the world—examining our impact on the land itself and the creatures that inhabit it; the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams; and the climate and atmosphere. The book also takes a deep look at our future impact on the planet and its resources—our affect on the coastal environments, the cryosphere and the drylands, as well as the hydrological and geomorphological impacts.

  • Fully updated to take account of recent advances in our understanding of global warming and other phenomena
  • Offers current opinions on such topics as human origins, the anthropocene, domestication, extinctions, and ecological invasions
  • Features a full-color presentation to allow for more and clearer photographs and diagrams
  • Contains more international case studies than previous editions to balance UK examples

Human Impact on the Natural Environment is essential reading for undergraduates in geography and environmental science, and for those who want a thorough, wide-ranging and balanced overview of the impacts of humans upon natural processes and systems from the Stone Age to the Anthropocene and who wish to understand the major environmental issues that concern the human race at the present time.

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1.1 The Development of Ideas

To what extent have humans transformed their natural environment? This is a crucial question which became very important in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Grove and Damodaran, 2006) as Western Europeans became aware of the ravages inflicted in the tropics by European overseas expansion. It was a theme that intrigued the eighteenth‐century French natural historian, Count Buffon, in his colossal series, L’Histoire Naturelle. He can be regarded as the first Western scientist to be concerned directly and intimately with the human impact on the natural environment (Glacken, 1967). He contrasted the appearance of inhabited and uninhabited lands.
Studies of the torrents of the European Alps, undertaken in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, deepened immeasurably the realization of human capacity to change the environment. Jean‐Antoine Fabre and Alexandre Surell studied the flooding, siltation, erosion, and division of watercourses brought about by deforestation in these mountains (Ford, 2016). Similarly Horace‐BĂ©nĂ©dict de Saussure showed that Alpine lakes had suffered a lowering of water levels in recent times because of deforestation. In Venezuela, Alexander von Humboldt concluded that the lake level of Lake Valencia in 1800 (the year of his visit) was lower than it had been in previous times, and that deforestation, the clearing of plains, irrigation, and the cultivation of indigo, were among the causes of the gradual drying up of the basin (Cushman, 2011). Comparable observations were made by the French rural economist, Jean‐Baptiste Boussingault (1845). He returned to Lake Valencia some 25 years after Humboldt and noted that the lake was actually rising. He described this reversal to political and social upheavals following the granting of independence to the colonies of the erstwhile Spanish Empire. The freeing of slaves had led to a decline in agriculture, a reduction in the application of irrigation water, and the re‐establishment of forest.
Boussingault also reported some pertinent hydrological observations that had been made on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic:
In the Island of Ascension there was an excellent spring situated at the foot of a mountain originally covered with wood; the spring became scanty and dried up after the trees which covered the mountain had been felled. The loss of the spring was rightly ascribed to the cutting down of the timber. The mountain was therefore planted anew. A few years afterwards the spring reappeared by degrees, and by and by followed with its former abundance. (Boussingault, 1845: 685)
Charles Lyell, in his Principles of Geology, one of the most influential of all scientific works, referred to the human impact and recognized that tree‐felling and drainage of lakes and marshes tended ‘greatly to vary the state of the habitable surface’. Overall, however, he believed that the forces exerted by people were insignificant in comparison with those exerted by nature:
If all the nations of the earth should attempt to quarry away the lava which flowed from one eruption of the Icelandic volcanoes in 1783, and the two following years, and should attempt to consign it to the deepest abysses of the ocean they might toil for thousands of years before their task was accomplished. Yet the matter borne down by the Ganges and Burrampooter, in a single year, probably very much exceeds, in weight and volume, the mass of Icelandic lava produced by that great eruption. (Lyell, 1835: 197)
Lyell somewhat modified his views in later editions of the Principles (Lyell, 1875), largely as a result of his experiences in th...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Human Impact on the Natural Environment
APA 6 Citation
Goudie, A. (2018). Human Impact on the Natural Environment (8th ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2018)
Chicago Citation
Goudie, Andrew. (2018) 2018. Human Impact on the Natural Environment. 8th ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Goudie, A. (2018) Human Impact on the Natural Environment. 8th edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Goudie, Andrew. Human Impact on the Natural Environment. 8th ed. Wiley, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.