Publisher: Pearson Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 13 121761 5
Pages: xxv + 664 Format: Paperback

Overall Score:

Target Readership Sen Secondary For help with criteria, click here


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1 - Approaching physical geography; 2 - Atmospheric processes; 3 - Global climates; 4 - Regional and local climates; 5 - Plate tectonics; 6 - Oceans; 7 - Soils and the environment; 8 - The biosphere; 9 - Biogeographical concepts; 10 - Ecological processes; 11 - Hillslope processes and landscape evolution; 12 - Sediments and sedimentation; 13 - Catchment hydrology; 134 - Fluvial geomorphology and river management; 15 - Solutes; 16 - Dryland processes and environments; 17 - Coasts; 18 - Glaciers and ice sheets; 19 - Permafrost and periglaciation; 20 - Quaternary environmental change; 21 -Humans and environmental change; 22 - Remote sensing of environmental change; 23 - Managing environmental change.



Book production tends to go in cycles! This year there are many fine books being produced which deal with the physical environment (some of which will be on this site). Although such a glut is not always useful it does serve to highlight range of offerings and give the reader a chance to pick what is personally seen as the best. In terms of the subject it means that an area which had been getting less exposure of late is back with some key offerings. Unlike many introductory texts this is an edited work calling on the expertise of a range of senior UK geographers.

The text itself is divided into 5 parts. The first part (and first chapter) looks at the place of physical geography in terms of its historical development, use of scientific methods and philosophies, and its approach to fieldwork. Part two covers climate and tectonics - the atmosphere and processes, plate tectonics and oceans. Chapter two is a good basic overview of global atmospheric chemistry and physics. This is complemented by chapter three which takes this information and examines, in more detail, the resulting global climates starting with aspects of data gathering and then providing a brief overview of the main climatic types and associated weather phenomena including an excellent overview of UK weather patterns. Chapter four continues down-scale to look at regional and local issues. The next move is to plate tectonics starting with global structure and then examining plate boundaries and key phenomena such as volcanoes. The final chapter examines oceans with a brief guide to key features and with more of a look at human use of the seas. Part three tackles, broadly, the biosphere (to complement part one's atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere). Chapter seven tackles soils with a good review of key processes and maps which use more of the UK system than the more commonly seen US system ( a big plus for the beginner trying to tie experience into reading). Chapters 8 and 9 focus on the biosphere: the former considers the distribution of key biomes whilst the latter looks at some of the principles governing such patterns. Part four, the largest part, covers the more 'traditional' physical fields of geomorphology and hydrology. We start with the development of hillslopes and the associated processes in detail which is a departure from the previous chapters that looked at more of an overview. This is followed by a study of sediments. Apart from the usual work on describing sediments there's a most interesting section dealing with human interference with sediment patterns adding a useful dimension to this topic. We return to more detailed work when chapter 13 looks at catchment hydrology in terms of techniques, principles and flow equations. Chapter 14 acts a companion to this by dealing with fluvial changes and river management. Most of this work deals with the physics of rivers: chapter 15 turns to look at chemistry with a detailed look at solution products. The next topic is an exact opposite - dryland systems and desertification covering, in a short space, an impressive range of ideas from natural and human agents to changes through time. Another change brings the reader to the coast. An increasingly pressured zone, coastal geomorphology is a key element whose main features are described here along with human action. Glacial landforms have long been at the backbone of any physical geography programme. Here, in chapters 18 and 19 we get not only the standard concepts of glacier formation and landscape alteration but also an interesting range of new techniques and what they are telling us. Chapter 19 has a long case study on Alaskan periglacial activity which would of interest to those following debates about opening up the region. Part five looks at environmental change and management. The first chapter looks at the Quaternary giving an account of past changes but it also investigates modelling - a useful addition. This is followed by a study of how humans have (and might) alter the planet. Chapter 22 is a techniques-based one looking at the fundamentals of remote sensing. Rather than just give descriptions there are numerous cases showing how and why techniques were employed making it an effective review of the area. Finally, chapter 23 describes some ways we can address change and manage it.

To keep interest and to highlight certain areas there are a range of features in each chapter adding up to an impressive presentation. Text boxes cover fundamental principles (more detail on basic work), techniques, environmental change (putting principles into practice) and new directions (current thinking in the subject). In addition there's the usual summaries, resources, bibliography at the end and learning outcomes at the beginning. There's also a companion website with an impressive range of resources from student flashcards to presentations for teachers (although this needs registration and can't, at this time, be commented upon).

Overall this is a most impressive text. It covers a very wide range of ideas noting not just basic concepts but current techniques making it ideal for the student wishing to take the subject further. Coverage of case studies is truly global and not just keeping to one area as is often the case. Although each text I receive is reviewed in isolation it so happens that 2 texts from the same publisher arrived at the same time (click here for the other review). How do these rate? Both are very good and should be seen as vital updates to a library. Holden's edition, though, is the more thorough and detailed with more sophisticated explanation which would make it ideal for the good senior student, educator and undergraduate (where it deserves to be seen as one of the key introductory texts).


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