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This optional theme considers two different kinds of extreme, terrestrial environments:

  • cold and high-altitude environments (polar, glacial areas, periglacial areas, high mountains in non-polar latitudes)
  • hot, arid environments (hot deserts and semi-arid areas).

These environments are relatively inaccessible and tend to be viewed as inhospitable to human habitation. Despite this, they provide numerous opportunities for settlement and economic activity. This theme examines the essential landscape characteristics of the two kinds of extreme environments, together with the natural processes operating in them; the way in which people have responded to the opportunities they offer, how they have adapted to extremes of weather and climate, and the challenges these environments pose for management and sustainability.

Through study of this optional theme, students will develop their understanding of processes, places, power and geographical possibilities. They will additionally gain understanding of more specialised concepts including glacial systems, risk and adaptation (in relation to climate change) and resource nationalism (in relation to land ownership).