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14.6. Geological action of the human being

Geological action of the human being

The action of human beings, like that of other living beings, has also contributed to geological processes. But unlike the rest, who adapt to the environment, humans with their intelligence and technology are capable of adapting the environment to their needs.

The most evident is the alteration of the ecosystems that, since humans stopped being hunters and gatherers to be cattle ranchers and farmers, they transformed large areas of land, burning and cutting down forests to have more space for agriculture. Lands without vegetation are more sensitive to erosion.

The human being is the living being that produces the greatest destruction in the rocks, since it uses them to build houses, roads, railways, bridges, etc., which also require modifications in the relief, leveling land, digging tunnels, etc.

Society also demands, more and more, more raw materials. Obtaining minerals and rocks involves moving large masses of rocks, creating galleries in underground mines, open-air quarries, dumps, etc. that can even devastate mountains, destroying vegetation and altering the drainage of surface waters. All this causes an erosion of the land harmful to the soil.

The construction of reservoirs changes the fluvial dynamics and causes many sediments to be retained in the dams without reaching the sea. The modification of river channels by means of dikes to prevent it from occupying the floodplain is also another alteration of river dynamics.

Carretera construida en la llanura de inundación

Third Belt of Zaragoza located near the mouth of the River Gállego to the Ebro, in the floodplain.

The alteration of the coastline with breakwaters, ports, etc., affects the marine currents and the action of the waves. The construction of buildings along the coast prevents the formation of coastal dunes.

The waste management can also alter the relief, from building up nuclear waste dumps. In addition, pollution can alter aquifers and other ecosystems.

Humans are also capable of modifying the climate, both locally and globally, which alters temperatures, rainfall, etc., which affects both ecosystems and external geological processes.


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Biology and Geology teaching materials for Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) and Baccalaureate students.