Human Uses of Glacial Areas

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Human Uses of Glacial Areas

Upland glaciated areas are not particularly conducive to farming,with their steep slopes, high precipitation, low temperatures and relatively thin, poor soils. In the Alps some sheep farming occurs, and used to use the methods of transhumance, which meant grazing the sheep on the high mountain pastures during the warmer summer months, before bringing them down to lower valley areas in the winter.


In Great Britain the glacial valley floor is very valuable farming land, asit is sheltered, flat and well irrigated. The soils are variable but can bevery fertile in areas of clay deposits. The farming is still mainly pastoral,although some areas can be used for arable farming.

  • The scenery of a glaciated area is spectacular, with it's high mountain pastures, wide valley floor, crashing waterfalls and sharp arête's. Many people love walking in the Swiss Alps purely to see this scenery.
  • For the more adventurous traveller, glacial valleys provide some fantastic rock climbing opportunities, as well as being perfect for things like hang-gliding.
  • Glaciers also can be very useful to the winter skiing industry, by guaranteeing that the resort will have some skiing, even if the winter snowfall is very poor. Some glaciers in North America offer all-year-round skiing.
  • The ribbon lakes are perfect for recreational activities such as water-skiing, sailing and fishing, as well as many other water-based activities. The prime example of this is the many ribbon lakes of the Lake District.

As seen in many parts of the Alps, glaciated valleys provide a perfect opportunity for the production of hydroelectric power. Their steep sides, high precipitation and low population density make them ideal places for dams to be built and reservoirs created (often by just increasing the area already filled by a ribbon lake).

Hydroelectric power

Management is needed in glacial areas to cope with many demands and pressures:

  • Glacial valleys are very attractive to tourists, and so methods have to be put in place to protect the environment from damage.
  • This includes trying to prevent soil erosion by introducing artificial paths or by diverting popular routes to allow the old paths time to recover.
  • Some places have become 'honeypot' sites, which attract a huge number of tourists every year. By promoting other similar areas, the local authorities can try to alleviate the pressure on certain very popular places.
  • Conflicts can also occur between local farmers or residents and tourists. The increased traffic, footpath erosion and the problems of family dogs worrying sheep all have led to conflicts between the local people and the visitors. The main way to alleviate these conflicts is to educate people into the correct way to treat the countryside when they visit.
  • Speed limits for boats have been introduced in some of the most popular lakes, such as Windermere. These are aimed at protecting local wildlife and preventing too much disruption to those enjoying the tranquil nature of the area.
Lake Windermere
  • Tourist facilities, such as visitor centres and parking areas have been introduced to try to cater for the influx of visitors, without taking over local villages and towns. These also provide a good base from which to try to educate people on how to treat the countryside when the visit.

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