Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Date of Publication: 2006
Price: ISBN: 1 4051 2704 X
Pages: xv + 357 Format: Paperback

Overall Score:

Target Readership Sen Secondary For help with criteria, click here


Return to main review page



1 - Introduction; 2 - The human impact on vegetation; 3 - Human influence on animals; 4 - The human impact on soils; 5 - The human impact on the waters; 6 - Human agency in geomorphology; 7 - The human impact on climate and the atmosphere; 8 - The future: introduction; 9 - The future: coastal environments; 10 - The future: hydrologic impacts; 11 - The future:the cryosphere; 12 - The future:drylands; 13 - Conclusion.



This is the latest incarnation of a text which started 25 years ago. Much has changed since that time but the demand for such material is still strong. Although the author has produced companion volumes this is the key work. It covers a topic that is still relevant today: the way in which human agencies alter the environment. It differs from many other texts on the topic by being aimed more at the beginner than researcher.

Unlike previous editions, this version has been expanded in scope whilst being constrained in size. Part one looks at the range of geographical activities that have been modified by human action. The opening chapter introduces the topic through historical geography, the development of human populations and modern urban development. From this point, chapters take one element of human impact and deal with it in detail. First topic is vegetation. Human impact starts with fire and moves on to deforestation, desertification, introduced species and pollution. Chapter three looks at animals, firstly through domestication and then loss through pollution and the more current ideas of population change such as habitat change and extinctions. Chapter four looks at soil. Salinity, soil alteration and erosion are the key points here. Next is water modification through the impact on channel flow, abstraction and pollution. It might be thought that human action cannot replicate changes wrought by geomorphology but, as the examples show, we are getting towards this. By excavating on the one hand and dumping on the other hand we are slowly altering water and sediment movements as well as coastal landforms (of which New Orleans should act as a reminder of this). Chapter seven takes a look at the final example, climate, and explores not just the greenhouse effect but also the impact of changes in land use, water bodies and pollution. At this point, earlier versions were just concluding with a look at the future. This edition takes this theme and expands it into 5 chapters. Part two look into the future. Chapter 8 acts as the introduction focussing largely on global warming. It's clear that this is the key focus because subsequent chapters explore changes in specific areas with relation to this. Thus chapter 9 examines the ways in which global warming will affect coastal areas but in terms of a wider range of options than usually considered such as permafrost changes and mangroves/ Chapter 10 continues the aquatic theme only for freshwater and in particular the impact of storms and cyclones. Much interest has been focussed on climate changes for polar and glacial regions - the cryosphere - and this evidence is reviewed in chapter 11. It's not just the areas with water that will suffer change. It also means that drylands will be affected which not only reduces surface water but also increases the chances of dust storms (which is one of the latest areas to become more popular in climate change analysis). A concluding chapter draws together the main aspects of our impact.

Overall, this is still a very good introductory text. Writing is clear and the book is well illustrated having also a good glossary and an extensive reference list. Plotting changes between the last 3 editions shows a gradual evolution of style rather than content. These books have always been well written but the change of chapters into briefer, more focussed areas for this edition would be a plus for the beginner. The clear delineation of current and future trends (effectively making the book two-part) is to be welcomed especially as newer students can find difficulty in separating data from its extrapolation. Against this, the newer areas show good references but not all of the most recent ones, neither is there the web presence seen in many texts.


Return to main review page