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Department of Special Education

Place

Physical and Human Characteristics

Location tells us where, and place tells us what is there. All places have a set of distinctive characteristics, the features that make them different from or similar to other places. Geographers often divide these characteristics into physical and human phenomena that are spatial and can be mapped. Characteristics of place often can be explained by the human and physical processes that define the geographic patterns of our planet. The geography of a place is a mosaic of factors, including the patterns and processes that define the three remaining fundamental themes: human-environmental relations, movement, and regions.

Physical Characteristics

Landforms:  Landforms and the processes that shape the landscape: erosion and deposition by rivers, waves, glaciers, and wind; mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics

Climate:  Patterns of temperature, humidity and rainfall, cells of air pressure, wind and ocean circulation: the climate of a place affects landform processes, soils, water availability, vegetation, and animal life.

Soils:  Natural fertility, suitability to agriculture types and crops, and relations to climate are all important factors of soil.

Natural Vegetation (Flora):  Type of environment: desert, tropical rainforest, tundra, or savanna, and the relationship to factors of soil and climate

Animal Life (Fauna):  Relationship to environment, climate, soils, and vegetation

Water:  Water bodies, the hydrological cycle, availability of fresh water, areas of water deficit and surplus

Human Characteristics

Religion:  Human belief systems and their imprints on places

Languages:  Human communication and its imprint on places: names of places and features are often geographically descriptive in their original language

Population Factors:  Description, distributions, density, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, and economic structures, rates of birth, death, and population growth

Settlement Patterns:  Urban, rural, suburban, wilderness areas, and the form of settlements

Economic Activities:  How people make a living, including agriculture, industry, forestry, fishing, and providing services, the imprint of an economic system on the landscape

Comprehension Check

Next: Human-Environmental Relations

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