Major Natural Regions of the World
The world is a phenomenal composite of natural regions and habitats. Its existing variety of geographical partitions, rich physiography, vivid ranging flora, and fauna makes it a wonderful and fascinating landscape.
Ideally, a natural region refers to an area governed by specific temperature, rainfall, relief, and other environmental conditions.
This article discusses the major natural regions of the world. It substantiates their different characteristics and features. All in all, the world comprises 12 major natural regions. A detailed analysis of these regions is mentioned below.
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Tropical Grassland (Savanna) Region
- This is one of the natural regions that covers the interior of the continents extending up to the sea in the west in the tropical belt.
- It is influenced by the equatorial belt of calms during summer and receives conventional rainfall.
- Tropical Grasslands surface under the garb of trade winds during winter which is dry winds while the region experiences drought.
- It generally lies between 5°N and 20°S latitudes.
- This region has moderate rainfall and greater annual range of temperature.
- It occurs extensively in Africa, parts of the Brazilian Plateau, and the Orinoco basin in South America.
- In East Africa, the primitive Masai people practice animal rearing.
- They migrate from place to place. Meat, milk, and other animal products are used for local consumption.
- There is a scope for the development of the pastoral industry on a commercial basis as has been done in a similar region in Queensland State in Australia.
- The Mausa tribesmen in the savanna region of Nigeria are mainly agriculturalists (dry crops) but also keep cattle and goats for providing milk and meat.
- Due to water scarcity, natural vegetation consists of savanna or tropical grasslands known as Llanos in Venezuela and
- Campos in Southern Brazil. Coarse tall grass grows to a height of about 3 meters is the typical vegetation.
- These tropical grasslands are known as the big game country as carnivorous animals like lion, leopard, tiger abound in the region.
- These animals feed on deer, zebras, and other herbivores. An extensive national park in East Africa attracts many tourists.
Tropical Deciduous Forest Region
- This region includes eastern margins of the continents between 10°N to 30°N and 10°S to 30°S.
- Rainfall is moderate except in coastal regions and mountainous tracts. The summers are hot and rainy while winters are warm and dry.
- Parts of regions such as India, South East Asia, West Africa, and Northern Australia experience a typical monsoon climate having a seasonal reversal of winds. Trade winds prevail in winter and monsoon winds blowing in opposite directions prevail during summer.
- Winds are onshore during summer.
- The lowlands and river valleys have fertile soil and adequate water supply.
- They are intensively cultivated with some tracts producing more than one crop during the year. Besides rice, wheat, commercial crops like jute, cotton are also cultivated.
- The river valleys and delta are massively populated. Mountainous tracts are forested and yield hardwood timber, bamboo. Some forests have been cleared for plantations of tea, coffee, and rubber.
- Primitive tribes reside in the inaccessible forests.
- The combination of heat and good rainfall in summer favors the growth of plants. Agriculture is the dominant occupation.
- Laterite soil occurs in these regions, except in river valleys where the alluvial soils are found.
- The natural vegetation consists of tropical forests that are less dense than equatorial forests.
- Teak, Rosewood, Mahogany are valuable trees.
- The equatorial belt extends roughly between 5°N and 5°S of the Equator. It has uniformly hot and wet climatic conditions throughout the year.
- The annual range of temperature is low, and seasonal contrasts are at a minimum.
- The combination of high temperature and high humidity makes the climate unfavorable for sustained human effort, but very favorable for the growth of vegetation.
- It remains mostly in a natural state except in some accessible tracts. Malaria, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases are widespread.
- Dense forests have remained inaccessible except along navigable rivers and few major roads. Human settlements are small and scattered.
- The Island of Java is inhabited by farmers for centuries for fertile volcanic soils. Intensive subsistence agriculture is common in lowlands and terraced hill slopes.
- The density of the population exceeds 1000 persons per sq. km.
- Development of plantation agriculture represents another response to the same environment.
- The region has red and yellow soils of low fertility as they get leached by heavy rainfall. The natural vegetation comprises dense, lofty equatorial forests (also known as “selvas”) containing a variety of species.
- The economic importance lies in their wealth of valuable hardwoods. The tall hardwood forms a continuous cover at a high level.
- There are small plants forming a second layer and thick undergrowth of bushes.
- The Amazon Basin of South America and Congo in Zaire is inhabited by primitive tribes.
- They sustain their livelihood through food gathering, fishing, and shifting cultivation.
- This region lies poleward of the tropical deserts on the western margin of the continents, roughly between 30° and 40° N and S latitudes.
- The summers are hot and dry while winters are mild and rainy.
- In summer, trade winds blow from land to sea giving practically no rain.
- In winters, this region comes under the influence of moist westerlies blowing on-shore and bringing cyclonic rain.
- The annual rainfall is moderate and the dry season is long and the annual range of temperature is 10°C to 17°C.
- The typical area is the coastal region around the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe, South-Western Asia, North Africa, and other areas are coastal lowlands in California, Central Chile, Cape Coasts in South Africa, south-west coast of Australia.
- While the coastal plains cultivate wheat, barley, and other crops, the hill slopes are covered with fruit trees.
- Though crops are cultivated for local consumption, a variety of citrus fruits are processed and exported in large quantities.
- Hence with the fine climate and fertility of the soil, shores of the Mediterranean have long been suited for human occupation and have attained cultural development.
- It has been the home of the great civilizations of the world.
- The natural vegetation consists of short evergreen trees, bushes, and shrubs.
- The chief trees are oaks, olives, and figs.
- The cultivation of grains and fruits are the most important occupations.
- Large scale production of grapes has led to production of different varieties of wine.
- The absence of frost encourages the production of delicate citrus fruits.
- The main crops are wheat, olive, vine, etc.
- Spain is rich in minerals other than coal.
- Lack of energy is due to lack of coal which is partly overcome by the development of water power. Italy is important for mercury and North Africa is noted for phosphate deposits.
- Textiles are the main industrial products of Spain and Italy. Chile has copper-bearing areas like EL Tenietc and south of Santiago.
- Tropical deserts are located on the western margins of continents in the Trade Wind belt roughly between 20° and 30°N and S latitudes and are known as hot or trade wind deserts.
- Annual precipitation is generally less than 25 cm. In most of the region clear skies favor fired passage of insolation during day time and outgoing radiation from the earth during night.
- Therefore, the diurnal range of temperature is high.
- The primitive Bushmen of Kalahari desert in South Africa and Aborigines of Australia practice food gathering and hunting.
- The Bedouins of Arabia are nomadic herdsmen rearing camels, horses, goats.
- They live in tents and migrate from place to place in search of pastures for their animals.
- In river valleys of desert regions are scattered oasis, where agriculture has developed. There are permanent rural settlements in the Nile Valley.
- Modern irrigation methods have ensured water supply, e.g. settled agriculture: Indus in Pakistan and Imperial Valley in California.
- Communication is very difficult and is carried on by camels that cross deserts by well-known routes from oasis to oasis.
- On account of aridity, these regions are almost destitute of vegetation.
- Either there is no vegetation, or it consists of those species of plants that are physiologically adapted to stand droughts called Xerophytes.
- Palm is the most important and characteristic tree found in these regions.
- The characteristic animal is a camel that lives on thorny scrubs. Soils are sandy with saline deposits on the surface caused by evaporation.
- Thorny shrubs and bushes which are drought resistant occur in patches.
- The deserts are desolate and agriculturally unproductive. The unproductivity is due to the dearth of water.
- The Discovery of petroleum and their mining in recent decades has led to rapid economic development in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
Mid-Latitude Deserts (Steppe Lands)
- These deserts are located in the interior plateau and basins in Asia and North America.
- They are surrounded by high mountain regions. Tibet and Gobi are typical examples.
- The main characteristic of this region is that it receives scanty rainfall as the interior location is surrounded by high mountains which prevent the inflow of moist air.
- Interior location results in the greater extreme of temperature between summer and winter.
- This region is inhabited by pastoral nomads who migrate in search of pastures.
- Most parts of Tibet and Gobi deserts have low population density.
- In lowlands of central Asia, agricultural developments, mining, and industrial development have also taken place.
- The Patagonia plateau in Argentina lying east of Andes is an example of the mid latitude desert. This region is inhabited by “pastoral nomads”.
- Temperature below freezing point during winters.
- During summers average temp.is 45-degree celsius.
- Rainfall between 25-75 cm.
Mid-latitude Grassland Region
- This region lies in the interior of the continents and therefore receives low rainfall.
- The annual range of temperature is high between warm summer and cold winter.
- Rainfall occurs as a result of the conventional ascent of air during summer.
- Owing to low rainfall and cold winter, trees are generally absent.
- The Red Indians of North America who inhabited their region were nomadic hunters.
- In Central Asia, nomadic herding is the main occupation.
- Such a nomadic way of life prevails only in isolated areas. In the United States, Ukraine and Russia, extensive mechanized agriculture has developed.
- Extensive level plains, the large size of farmhouses, and shortage of farm labor have led to the use of machinery of all types on the farms.
- The Pastoral Industry has also developed on a commercial scale.
- Machines are used for slaughtering animals, packing of meat, and dairy products.
- The natural vegetation is predominantly short grasses.
- These grasslands are known by different local names such as the Steppes of Eastern Europe, Prairies of North America, Pampas of Argentina, and Downs of Australia.
- The region has fertile black soils which are rich in organic matter.
- Wheat is the most widespread crop cultivated in these grasslands.
- USA, Canada, Argentina, and Australia are major exporters of wheat.
- Maize is also cultivated in the warmer parts of the region.
- Large-scale export of meat and dairy products from Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina has become possible by the use of refrigerated holds in ships.
Eastern Margins or St Lawrence Type
- This region lies poleward of the Warm East Margin Region.
- The region has warm wet summers and cold dry winters.
- North Eastern United States and adjoining parts of Canada, North China, Manchuria, Korea, and Northern Japan are the main areas included in these Regions.
- Agriculture is not possible during winter.
- Summer which is warm and moist favors cultivation.
- Barley, oats, and potatoes are the main crops in the North American region while soya beans, mulberry and oilseeds are cultivated in the Asian region.
- Dairy farming is widespread near urban centres.
- Softwood trees favor lumbering on modern lines using machinery.
- Logs are utilized for manufacturing wood pulp and paper.
- Clear areas are replanted systematically so as to give a sustainable yield.
- The United States (north-east) and Japan are highly urbanized, resulting in a high density of population.
- The natural vegetation consists of mixed deciduous and coniferous forests.
- Deciduous trees shed their leaves during the cold winter season and coniferous trees occur beyond 50°N.
- Besides forestry and agriculture, fruit farming is also carried on.
- Fishing has developed on a commercial scale along the coast of the North-Eastern United States and Japan.
- There are rich fishing grounds as planktons grow in abundance in the area of convergence of warm and cold currents.
- Fish is a staple item in the diet of Japanese people.
- Japan is a major exporter of fish.
- Industrialization has developed in the North-Eastern United States, and Japan on a large scale based on local and imported raw materials.
Polar Lowlands (Tundra)
- The vast lowlands, lying along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, where the ground is frozen for the greater part of the year are known as Tundras.
- They are low-lying cold deserts between the regions of eternal snow and ice in the north and coniferous in the south.
- They are found in northern Asia as well as in Canada and Europe where they are known as Barren lands.
- The region has a long severe cold winter and a short cool summer.
- The population is extremely sparse.
- There are scattered tribes of Lepps, Finns.
- Life for them is a constant struggle against nature.
- Animal males are fairly redundant.
- They provide food, shelter, clothing, and are valuable for furs and feathers.
- People are nomadic, and hunting and fishing are their chief occupations.
- Furs and skins are the chief products and articles of trade in this region.
- Economically, these areas do not have great value.
Polar Highlands (Icecap type)
- Antarctica and Greenland are examples of large landmasses in polar regions having permanent ice caps.
- During summer temperature does not exceed 10°C. Precipitation is low and occurs as snowfall during winter.
- The harsh environment does not encourage permanent settlement.
- The Eskimos of Canada and Alaska, the Yakuts of Siberia lead a nomadic life.
- They live in igloos in winter and tents in summer. External contacts have changed the lives of nomads.
- Some of them live in permanent wooden houses with all basic amenities.
- Reindeer farms have been established in the Soviet Union.
- Glasshouses have been set up for cultivation of vegetables to meet the needs of the local population.
- Hunting and fishing are their main occupation.
- They use boats and modern equipment for fishing. Mining of oil and gold in Alaska, iron ore in Labrador, nickel in
- Siberia has resulted in the establishment of mining settlements with adequate transport facilities by land, sea, and air.
The Taiga (coniferous) Region
- This region occurs as a broad belt in Europe, Asia, and North America between the mid-latitude of the grassland region in the South and the Polar Tundra in the North.
- The climate is cold and moist.
- The region has short warm summers and long cold winters. Rivers remain frozen and snow covers the ground for many months.
- Annual precipitation is moderate in amount with the maximum during summer.
- Coniferous forests occur and contain softwood trees like oak, birch, and maple.
- The population is sparse and consists mostly of native tribes.
- Life is primitive and hard. Fish is the chief food and clothing is made from fur.
- The simple log hut is one of the most typical forest dwellings.
- A small number of Russian colonialists are settled in few towns and along river valleys.
- The development of this region has been retarded by the inaccessibility of large areas and lack of adequate means of communication.
- The cultivation of barley and oats is limited to the southern margins of the region.
- In Siberia and parts of Canada, forest resources have not been utilized.
- In Scandinavia, parts of Russia and Canada, forests are utilized systematically.
- Lumbering is the main occupation of people in areas that are easily accessible.
- Hunting of fur-bearing animals like muskrat, ermine, and silver fox and fishing are other economic activities.
- While lumbering is common during winter, fishing is practiced in the short summer season, when the snow cover melts.
- Short growing season does not favor agriculture on a large scale.
Cool (Mid Latitude) West European Type
- Regions of this type are found on the western margins of the continents in the permanent zone of westerlies.
- It includes Western Europe from Northern Norway to the British Isles, North-West United States, and Southern Chile in South America and Tasmania Island of New Zealand in Australia.
- This region is under the influence of westerly winds throughout the year.
- The winters are warmer and annual rainfall is higher than in the cool East Margin Region.
- Rainfall is of cyclonic origin and occurs throughout the year with a maximum in winter.
- The mean annual range of temperature is below 15°C in European and North American Regions.
- North-West Europe has been inhabited by man for several centuries and the resources have been developed fully.
- The area is highly urbanized.
- Market gardening is widespread to satisfy the demand for vegetables.
- Industries have also been set up utilizing imported raw materials like cotton.
- Unlike North-West Europe, other areas remain sparsely populated and resources are not fully developed.
- Fishing and lumbering are common in British Columbia in Canada.
- The resources of Chile have been mainly unutilized due to the remote location.
- In South Island of New Zealand, the rearing of sheep has developed on a commercial scale.
- They export Wool and mutton.
- The natural vegetation consists of a deciduous forest.
- Coniferous forests are there on hill slopes.
- Intensive agriculture is common. Wheat, Barley, Potatoes, Sugar Beet are important crops here. Mixed farming (Both agriculture and animal rearing) is common.
- Mineral resources have been utilized extensively to provide power and raw materials for industries.
- Fishing has developed on a commercial scale as the shallow continental shelf is extensive in this area.
Altogether, the aforementioned and elucidated natural regions furnish enrichment to the global geographic and physiographic features. The world integrates the diverse natural variety under a single umbrella.
As the responsible components of this vast ecosystem, we must take care of our biosphere and move it forward towards sustainable development.
The global governments to initiate different policies and laws for the governance and protection of these natural regions. It enforces viable solutions to the problems faced by living and non-living creatures, all alike.