Glacial Eroded Landforms Essay Sample

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1. Distinguish between the processes of erosion and weathering in an area undergoing glaciation.

Erosion is the wearing away and removal of material by a moving force. In an area undergoing glaciation the moving force is the ice. The processes of erosion include plucking and abrasion. On the other hand weathering is the breakdown and decay of rock in situ, with no movement involved. The processes of weathering include freeze-thaw and dilatation. Erosion moves rocks from one place to another, whereas weathering simply breaks rock particles down. So the difference between the processes of erosion and weathering it that the processes of erosion involve movement, whereas the processes of weathering do not.

2. Examine the impact of glacially eroded landforms on human activity

Glacially eroded landforms have many different impacts on human activity, some positive and some negative. These impacts range from transport to industry in both rural and urban areas.

Transport is an aspect of human activity affected by glacially eroded landforms. U shaped valleys are glacially eroded landforms which have great advantages for transport as they provide natural routeways for through upland areas. So roads and railway lines can be constructed, linking major towns together. For example the A591, which is the main road through the Lake District, follows a glacial trough. The Penrith to Cockermouth railway, now dismantled, followed glacial valleys. So glacial valleys can provide natural routeways however they do have a disadvantage to transport. It is very difficult to find a routeway between parallel valleys, so if two settlements are in parallel valleys, it is likely that to connect the two it would mean going round the valley.

Tourism is hugely affected by glacially eroded landforms. The tourism industry has had huge growth in recent years which has brought many economics benefits to mountain regions. The multiplier effect is an economic benefit brought through tourism. Visitors are attracted by the spectacular glacially eroded landforms such as pyramidal peaks, corries, deep valleys, ar�tes and hanging valleys. Britain is rich in these landforms which provide scenic value to areas like the Lake District. The glacial landforms not only bring tourists seeking scenic value to areas, but also provide a great opportunity for hill walkers, climbers, and skiers. Many areas have capitalised on these tourists. For example Aspen, Colorado was originally a silver mining settlement but since the 1960’s it became one of the top ski resorts in the world.

Although tourism has the multiplier effect to areas with glacially eroded landforms, it also has negative effects. Mountain ecosystems are easily damaged by human impact. The excessive development of steep slopes because of increased tourism can create instability and increase the hazards of mass movement. There is also the problem of footpath erosion due to the huge amount of walkers in popular glacial areas such as the Lake District. A knock on effect of tourism experienced in Arran, is the high demand for the small number of houses on the island. Due to the great landscape and glacial landforms such as Goat Fell 874m in height, people want holiday homes on island. This has led to average house prices surpassing 300,000. For local people this is a negative effect as they cannot afford to live on the island.

However the money generated from tourism can be put into maintaining footpaths, for example on the Isle of Arran, footpaths were maintained, costing thousands of pounds.

Another human activity affected by glacially eroded landforms is agriculture. Pastoral farming is the predominant agriculture, as the steep terrain and shallow soils in glacial areas are unsuitable for arable farming. Areas of glacial landform provide the necessary requirements for grazing animals, however there it is generally not suitable for arable farming. Although glacial troughs can provide flat valley floors in otherwise hilly areas which are suitable for arable farming. For example Yew Tree Farm, St Johns, in the Keswick area has dairy farming taking place on the flat valley floors. Lodgement till which has built up from successive glaciations covers much of East Anglia. Chalk from the underlying bedrock mixed with the overlying till forms a ‘chalky boulder clay’ soil. This is highly suitable for cereal cultivation.

So glacial landforms do have benefits to agriculture, they provide areas for pastoral farming as well as soils and flat areas for arable farming. However there are negative effects. Glacial stripping on hillsides means that there are very thin soils, so sheep farming is the only option.

Settlements are hugely impacted on by glacially eroded landforms. Glaciated areas offer both constraints and opportunities for settlements.

Upland glacial areas have difficulties for settlement because of the rugged terrain and the lack of flat space to build on. As well as the lack of flat land, infrastructure for transport and communication is also more costly to build, as pyramidal peaks and valleys have to be constructed round them in order to connect two settlements. Many villages and small towns in upland areas are found in a linear pattern, as a result of the glacial eroded landforms impact on settlements. Glacial valleys are often the only areas suitable for settlements in upland areas.

In lowland areas the distribution of glaciofluvial deposits can form river terraces, which can be an important factor in the location of settlements. River terraces provide areas of raised flat ground free of flooding, where settlements can develop and get access to the river. For example the many settlements along the River Thames. Keswick, the largest settlement in the northern Lake District, lies at the confluence of three glacial valleys, as it is the biggest expanse of flat land in the area.

So glacially eroded have major impacts on settlements, however these impacts have spatial differences, as in upland areas, they restrict settlements to a linear pattern, whereas in lowland areas, they can form around fluvioglacial landforms.

The final way in which human activity is impacted on by glacial eroded landforms is there effect on industry. Deeply eroded troughs and ice stripping can expose rocks and minerals. These minerals such as slate are of great economic value, so mining and quarrying come to the area, which increases jobs in the area. The glaciated uplands of North Wales once had a thriving slate mining industry. At its peak this industry employed nearly 17,000 people and exported slate all over the world. So this slate had huge economic benefits to the local area and economy.

In lowland areas, glacial activities also benefit industry. Outwash deposits from ice sheets provide sand and gravel for the construction industry.

However in order to extract raw materials such as slate, accessibility is a key issue. There must be enough infrastructure in the upland areas to transport the materials once they have been quarried or mined. However with such landforms as ar�tes and pyramidal peaks it is difficult.

Glacially eroded landforms have a huge impact on human activity. The positive impacts include increased tourism resulting in the multiplier effect, and the exposure of raw materials. Settlements may also benefit from glacial eroded landforms as settlements can use fluvioglacial rivers. Transport can benefit from the eroded valleys for roads and railways, as does agriculture as the flat-floored valleys provide flat land for arable farming.

The negative impacts of glacially eroded landforms include the difficulty of transport in upland areas, the limitation of arable farming as the land is mostly hilly and the instability of steep slopes caused by tourism. The accessibility to the raw materials is restricted due to glacial landforms such as corries, glacial valleys and pyramidal peaks.

So it is clear that glacially eroded landforms have many positive and negative impacts on human activity.

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