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Outline the challenges and opportunities for human activity in present peri-glacial environments

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Introduction

Outline the challenges and opportunities for human activity in present peri-glacial environments The term peri-glacial means near to or on the fringe of an ice-sheet. This term is however more widely used to include any area that has a cold climate or areas that have experienced severe frost action in the past. Today the main peri-glacial areas are in the artic regions of Canada, USA and Russia. Frost and snow have a major impact on the landscape in these areas hence resulting in potential opportunities and in some cases, challenges. Peri-glacial areas can be further inhibited as they are characterised by a layer of permafrost or permanently frozen ground. Peri-glacial areas present many problems for settlements and therefore it is logical that most peri-glacial areas are sparsely populated and largely underdeveloped. This climate has six months of long, dark and very cold winters, with temperatures staying well below freezing for almost half of the year. During the short summer the temperatures are warm enough for plants to grow. People who live in this area rely on caribou, fish and marine mammals for food. Water in the soil below the surface remains frozen throughout the year therefore vegetation growth is minimal and limited to only mosses, lichens and low shrubs. ...read more.

Middle

This problem can however be overcome by lorries with steam generators. The construction and maintenance of roads therefore poses problems but if constructed can also prove advantageous as access is made easier to the outside world and particularly tourists from whom profit can be made. Low temperatures, limited organic life and the lack of circulating ground waters are caused by peri-glacial environments and are in turn reflected in the character of tundra soils. This causes agricultural problems for the area as the impeded drainage affects about 90% of the tundra area; bog soils therefore occupy most of the area. Agriculture problems exist, as the growing season is very short at only three months, low temperatures for most of the year mean that there is little growth, soils are unstable, there is poor drainage, low rainfall and the soils are thin. A peri-glacial environment is also a low-energy environment and so long periods of continuous night and low levels of sunlight means that photosynthesis is limited. Recycling of materials is also slow as plants lie dormant for most of the year and animals migrate or hibernate during the winter months, few nutrients are therefore being put into the soil. Land in peri-glacial environments is also subject to frost heave. ...read more.

Conclusion

Quarrying for rock resources and drilling for oil also poses problems and advantages for human activity. Oil deposits and other natural resources found in the area cause fortune hunters to come to the area and bring much profit to the area as employment and resources are introduced to the area. Problems however arise when we consider the massive damage done to the environment and the scars that are left behind that might never heal. Because the thermal equilibrium is so fragile it is near impossible that quarrying or drilling for oil would not affect this, this causes changes in the water table and perhaps flooding. The animals and plant life of the area is also affected as their habitat is destroyed, some species could possibly be made extinct. There are many opportunities and challenges to be considered for human activity in peri-glacial environments and it is essential that the both problems and benefits should be weighed up if sustainable development is to exist in these areas without the destruction of the environment. Present peri-glacial environments are however not solely affected by those occupying the area. For example the effects of global warming might well be responsible for changes within the thermal equilibrium of the area as summer months become warmer hence causing the active layer to melt more rapidly, this could result in flooding and could prove a potential disaster for both those living in the area and those merely visiting it. L.Tollman ...read more.

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