Landscape impact

Ever since the first prehistoric people began to dig for stone to make implements, rather than collect loose material, humans have modified the landscape through the excavation of rock and soil, the generation of waste and the creation of artificial ground.

An estimated 57 000 million tonnes of earth and rock is shifted annually by humans, whereas only 22 000 million tonnes of sediment is annually transported by our rivers and oceans. The rate and amount of sediment moved correlates with increasing population.

Movement of material can be classified as both deliberate (direct) and unintentional (indirect). Anthropogenic processes where rock or soil is deliberately excavated, transported and deposited by people include:

  • burial and defensive purposes
  • construction and infrastructure for settlement (buildings, canals, roads, railways)
  • industry
  • mining (subsurface and opencast)
  • processing of metal ore
  • waste generation

Unintentional movement of material includes wind and water movement of sediment as a result of the exposure of soil through agricultural activities and the deposition of sediment as a result of dam construction.

Dubai Metro construction works
Embankment construction.
Earth movers. (Photo: Tony Cooper).


Contact Ms Stephanie Bricker (Urban Geoscience) for further information