AQA Specification B      A2 Geography Module 4  13.1

 

This recent question gives some indication of the level of knowledge and understanding expected from the candidate:

 

Geography UNIT 4 Global Change           Long Term Climatic Change.

3.“The present day characteristics of the soils and vegetation of the British Isles have been greatly influenced by human activities.”

 

Discuss this statement.

In your answer, and in the context of the British Isles:

 

Describe the effect of human activity on the characteristics of the soils;

Outline the effects of the human activities on vegetation successions;

Evaluate the importance of human activities in the development of soils and vegetation                                                                     (25 marks)

 

 

These extracts, one in text format and one in a table, give an indication of the level of  knowledge and understanding expected at A level for essay type answers. They should be read alongside Table 9.1 on page 201  of  Redfern D. and Skinner M. 2003  AQA B  Advanced Geography -  Phillip Allan Updates 

 

For access to higher level marks it is reasonable to expect the following approach from candidates;

 

For the link between climatic change and vegetation change:

Entry to upper level marks is base upon the marker being able to find some depth and accuracy in links between a range of climatic changes and vegetation changes.

The accuracy refers the basic time scale or chronology dates or to an accurate general sequence or succession of events.

The depth refers to the use of examples of, for example, types of vegetation associated with colder or warmer conditions and changes to the length of the growing season and the threshold temperatures required for vegetation growth.

 

For human activity:

The breadth of the human activity is discussed with an accurate time scale.

The links between human activity and the changes in the climax vegetation are described and set in an accurate framework of time and location in the British Isles

There is an assessment as to the relative importance of the climatic change and the human activity on the changes in the vegetation

 

Extract 1: The Mark Scheme notes for answers from AQA A level Geography B 1999

 

Human impact on climatic climax vegetation in the British Isles since the end of the last ice age.

 

The Climax Vegetation of the British Isles

For most parts of lowland Britain and in many upland areas, the climax vegetation would appear to be forest, generally dominated by oak, but under certain conditions (chalk/limestone) by beech and ash. In Central Scotland pine dominated. In poorly drained areas of Western Britain and in the mountains, the growth of blanket bog may have naturally replaced forest. Above the tree line, sub Alpine heath and grasses would predominate.

 

Major impact is that of deforestation. Most of this took place in the Mesolithic period (5000-10000 yrs BP) due to the burning by hunter gatherers to encourage large herbivores like the red deer. Mainly confined to upland areas ( e.g. North York Moors) and the sandy heathlands of SE England. Later, people of the Neolithic culture used fire and the axe to clear forest and scrub for shifting cultivation (up to 50% of the climax vegetation may have been cleared by the Iron Age). Further clearance took place in Roman and Saxon times, and by the Domesday survey at the start of the millennium only 15% of the original forest remained. Much of this was then removed by the expansion of agriculture in the medieval period.  In the Scottish Highlands, massive deforestation of the pine forests took place in medieval times, to be replaced by heather moorland. Further regrowth has been prevented by grouse management and the grazing of sheep. In Wales, such overgrazing by sheep has led to the spread of bracken over extensive areas. Also, more recently, afforestation has taken place in upland areas, to cover the demand for paper after WW1, and due to the tax and CAP incentives. Farmers have improved the quality of grassland in the uplands by planting new species of ryegrass. They have also, since 100AD, improved the drainage of wetland areas like the Broads, Fens and Somerset levels.and thereby changed/removed the natural vegetation.

 

Other changes since 1000AD could include:

The introduction of new species

The planting of hedgerows in the enclosure period

The conservation of forest and other areas, from royal woodland to SSSIs.

Recent global warming and its influence on vegetation.

 

For access to higher level marks it is reasonable to expect the following approach from candidates:

 

For the link between climatic change and vegetation change:

Entry to upper level marks is base upon the marker being able to find some depth and accuracy in links between a range of climatic changes and vegetation changes. The accuracy refers the basic time scale or chronology dates or to an accurate general sequence or succession of events. The depth refers to the use of examples of, for example, types of vegetation associated with colder or warmer conditions and changes to the length of the growing season and the threshold temperatures required for vegetation growth.

 

For human activity:

The breadth of the human activity is discussed with an accurate time scale. The links between human activity and the changes in the climax vegetation are described and set in an accurate framework of time and location in the British Isles. There is an assessment as to the relative importance of the climatic change and the human activity on the changes in the vegetation

 

Extract 2: Changes of Climate and Vegetation from AQA A level Geography B Mark Scheme 1999

 

Date

Phase- period

Climate

Vegetation

Cultures

Pre 15000

Final glaciation

Glacial

None

None

 

15000-12000

Periglacial

Cold, 6°C summer

Tundra

None

 

12000-10000

Allerod

Warming slowly to

12°C summer

Tundra with hardy trees

e.g. willow and birch

None

10000-8000

Pre Boreal

Glacial advance,

colder, 4°C summer

 

 

8000-6000

Boreal

Continental, winters

colder and drier, summers warmer than today

 

Forests- juniper first then pine and birch and finally oak, elm and lime.

None

6000-3000

Atlantic

Maritime-warm summers

20°C. Mild winters 5° wet.

Our "optimum climate and vegetation oak-ash-elm and lime.(too cold for lime today)

Peat on the moors.

Beginning of the Neolithic

3000-500

sub Boreal

Continental-warmer and drier

Elm and lime declined as birch flourished and fine peat dried out

Neolithic times.

First deforestations. Beginning of the Bronze Age

 

500-0

sub Atlantic

Maritime-cooler stormy and wet

Peat bogs reformed decline in forests due to climate and farming

Settled agriculture

0-1000

Historical times

Improvement-

Warmer and drier

Clearances for farming

Early part-

Roman occupation

1000-1550

,,

Decline-much cooler and wetter

Further clearances

Little climax vegetation left

Medieval farming

 

1550-1700

,,

"Little Ice Age"

Colder than today

 

 

Post 1700

,,

Gradual improvement

Recently some afforestation-

Coniferous trees

 

Agricultural and Industrial Revolution