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An example of advanced anthropization: the cultivation of rice in terraces in Vietnam

In geography and ecology, anthropization is the conversion of open spaces, landscapes, and natural environments by human action.[1]

Anthropic erosion is the process of human action degrading terrain and soil.

An area may be classified as anthropized even though it looks natural, such as grasslands that have been deforested by humans. It can be difficult to determine how much a site has been anthropized in the case of urbanization because one must be able to estimate the state of the landscape before significant human action.[citation needed]


With the continually-growing population of humans, the land that the Earth provides has been appropriated over the years. The ecological footprint created by anthropization is continually growing despite efficiency and technique improvements made in anthropization..

Whether anthropized or not, all land seldom a few locations has been claimed. Outside of the largely inhospitable Arctic and Antarctic circles and large portions of other uninhabitable landscapes, much of the globe has been used or altered in some direct way by humans. Land has been appropriated for many different reasons, but ultimately the outcome is typically a short-term benefit for humans. An area is anthropized is some way to make land available for housing, to harvest the resources, to create space for some anthropological reason, or many other possibilities.

Processes and effects[edit]

An example of land that has been appropriated for cultivation in Hainan, China.


The root of many early forms of civilization, agriculture has been a primary reason for anthropization. In order to cultivate food or breed animals, land needs to be altered to support this. This could mean that soil is tilled or structures are built in order to facilitate the agriculture. This can lead to soil erosion and pollution (pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.), and subsequently habitat fragmentation and overall an increased ecological footprint. It is also worth noting that the line between agriculture and industry often overlaps, and many of these effects take place as a result of industry as well.

Urban development[edit]

Especially with approximately 7.5 Billion humans inhabiting the Earth,[2] this typically aligns with an increase in residences worldwide. Over the years, land has been built upon in order to meet the needs and wants of humans. This can range from small villages to massive factories, water parks to apartments. The process of urbanization and the development of human residences can significantly affect the environment. Not only does the physical space of buildings fragment habitats and possibly endanger species, but it fundamentally alters the habitat for any other living being. For some species, this effect can be inconsequential, but for many this can have a dramatic impact. The biosphere is very much interconnected, and this means that if one organism is affected, then as a result the other organisms within this ecosystem and food chain are also affected.

The Athabasca oil sands are an example of anthropization as a result of the harvest and transport of a non-renewable resource, oil sands.

As well, within the last century, with any urbanized area there also needs to be roads to support transportation. This transportation is a continued source of pollution and the roads are a large source of soil erosion.

Industry and technology[edit]

In order to support humans, industrial buildings and processes are apparently essential. To create more urban development, and to aid agriculture, many products need to be processed, refined, or constructed. The key component to this is that in order to have factories, the materials used to create a product need to be gathered. For the wide range of products that have been created and refined in this anthropological age, there is a plethora of substances that are harvested. Many of these materials are non-renewable (e.g. fossil fuel, metal ores, etc.) and the harvest of these results in relatively permanent anthropization. For resources that are depended on in high quantity, this can also mean temporary depletion or damage to the source of the resource (e.g. depletion or pollution of fresh water reserves,[3] improper or inefficient silviculture, etc.). Even sustainable or renewable industrial anthropization still affects the environment. While the resource in question may not be in jeopardy, the harvest and processing of this can still cause severe change and damage to the environment.


Anthropization can also be a result of scientific endeavours. This can manifest as construction of structures to aid in scientific discovery and observation. This can range from structures such as observatories, or on the opposite scale the Large Hadron Collider. These and many other things are built and used to enhance knowledge of sciences. They do however require space and energy in order to exist.


To power the ever-growing human race, energy is needed. Power-harvesting structures are built to harness energy, such as dams, windmills, and nuclear reactors. These sources of energy ultimately fuel the rest of anthropological activity and are essential in this way. However many of these methods have consequences. With dams, construction aside, they can cause flooding, habitat fragmentation, and other effects. With nuclear reactors, they have a lasting effect in that typically a lifespan of one of these is around 50 years[4] and afterwards the nuclear waste needs to be dealt with and the structure itself needs to be shut down and cannot be used further. To safely dispose of this even low-level waste can take hundreds of years, ranging upwards with increased radioactivity.[5] To produce and as a result of this production of energy, it requires a lot of anthropized land.

Evolution of anthropization[edit]

An example of ancient anthropization; Giza pyramid complex, Egypt.

Obviously the change in population has a direct effect on the anthropological impact, but changes in technology and knowledge have greatly changed anthropization throughout the Holocene. The tools that have been developed and the evolution of the methods that humans use in order to anthropize have changed drastically. For examples, the great pyramids in Egypt were not constructed by some large machine, instead by thousands of humans. They were still able to build massive monuments, but the efficiency and also the environmental damage as a result of their efforts is much different than today. This is just an example, however. It does show that the environmental effect of modern anthropization is generally greater, not just because of the sizable increase in population when comparing today to ancient Egypt. The pollution and loss of biodiversity was largely natural, not man-made, and the anthropization existed on a much lower level.

As the population of the Earth continues to increase for the foreseeable future, this anthropization will continue to evolve.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anthropization - Hypergéo". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  2. ^ "World Population Clock: 7.5 Billion People (2017) - Worldometers". Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  3. ^ "How Water Sources are Being Depleted". PureDrinkableWater. Retrieved 2017-01-31. 
  4. ^ Voosen, Paul. "How Long Can a Nuclear Reactor Last?". Scientific American. Retrieved 2017-01-31. 
  5. ^ Miller, G. Tyler, David F. Hackett, and Carl Eric Wolfe. Living in the Environment. 4th ed. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2017. 454-55. Print.