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It probes the ways in The natural regions of North America are typified by broad areas of apparently similar appearance and morphology.

The entire western margin of the continent is paralleled by a series of mountain chains with intermontane basins and plateaus. The vast interior of the continent is dominated by gently rolling plains. The eastern side of the continent has both low mountain relief and, along the southeast coast, almost flat topography. The general areas of physiographic similarity, however, contain important structural differences.

In addition, climatic zones do not always coincide with the physiographic patterns. The main landform zones extend north-south; some of the major climatic differences cut across this trend with latitudinal zones. The entire western margin of the continent is occupied by a massively crumpled landscape. It consists of long ranges of mountains interspersed with high plateaus, narrow valleys, and broad interior basins. There are two linear mountain regions.

The more eastern is the Rocky Mountains. The more western section is a succession of rugged ranges Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Coast Ranges that parallel the Pacific coast. Between and among these mountainous margins are areas of lower relief; these are punctuated in some places by smaller mountain ranges or cut deeply by rivers and streams to form spectacular canyonlands, such as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

The southern extension of the continent is largely within this region. The two major ranges in Mexico Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental form the margins of an interior plateau in the north and merge in the rugged south central portion of the country.

Except for a narrow high-rainfall zone along the northern Pacific margin, most of the region is dry but also subject to altitudinal climatic zonation. Thus, hot or dry lowlands grade into moist, cool subalpine conditions at higher elevations. These altitude variations are further modified by latitude, because this region includes the full north-south cooler-warmer range of climatic conditions. The arid Great Basin of the western United States and a smaller portion of north central Mexico have interior drainage. Throughout the entire region, settlement is especially dependent on local water supplies or on the importation of water.

The largest landscape region in North America is occupied by the smallest number of people. Located north of the Great Lakes and the estuary of the St. Lawrence River, and including Greenland, the Canadian Shield is a vast region of Precambrian metamorphic rock. Along the eastern side of the shield, as in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec and Labrador and in the mountains on Baffin Island and Greenland, shield topography remains rugged. Most of the remainder between the Arctic and the Great Lakes is a low-lying, moderately hilly landscape.

Scoured by repeated glaciation, it is now dotted with millions of small lakes and swampy bogs that freeze during the long winters. The general drainage is northward into Hudson Bay or the Arctic Ocean; the southern margins of the shield drain toward the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Soils that are not waterlogged in the summer and frozen all winter are thin, rocky, and acidic. The southern portion of the shield is covered by a forest of needleleaf evergreens. The northern portion except where permanently ice-covered is characterized by the low, brushy tundra.

The immense Interior Plains of the continent reach from the Arctic almost to the Gulf of Mexico; they have flat to moderately rolling topography. The region has a continental climate, characterized by a wide seasonal temperature range and periods of intermittent aridity. The northern plains are colder than the southern portion.

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The eastern portion of the region is more humid shorter dry spells and more rainfall than the western. Because of the east-west climatic division of the Interior Plains, the drier western portion is often referred to as the Great Plains, with the remainder still called the Interior Plains. The shift from one portion of the larger region to the other is generally gradual. The vegetation consists of grassland throughout the drier portion of the region. The grassland merges into what was originally a deciduous or a mixed coniferous-deciduous woodland.

The small portion of the plains in the far north shares the coniferous-to-tundra pattern found across the shield. The region's drainage pattern is largely into the Mississippi River system. In addition, some of the rivers flow across the shield into Hudson Bay. Others make their way into the Arctic-bound Mackenzie River. Soils of the plains are responsive to climate and vegetation. They are of the grey brown forest type in the wood portions of the region. Fertile brown-to-black grassland earths are found in the drier western section.


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Soils in the far north are poorly developed and boggy. Lawrence almost to the Gulf of Mexico. This system is older than the western mountains but far younger than the shield. Most of the Appalachian region and the small area of interior highlands formed by the Ozark Mountains and the Ouachita and Boston ranges is composed of a series of low, well-worn mountains or deeply dissected plateaus.

Local relief may be considerable, but the scale is more modest than in the west. The northern portion of the region offers a more jumbled and rounded relief pattern than the Blue Ridge Mountains and Ridge and Valley sections of the southern Appalachians. The natural vegetation is generally a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest. The soils are rocky and infertile on the upland portions and more fertile, but subject to flooding, in many of the valleys.

The region cuts across several climatic zones, all relatively humid. They range from the subarctic regime of Newfoundland to the humid subtropical conditions of the southern interior United States. Bordering the continent on the south and east are a series of plains and low, rolling topography. These conditions, together with the region's southerly location within the continent, mean that summers are hot and humid. Winters, where seasonal variation is experienced, are relatively short and mild. The vegetation and the soil patterns are extremely variable, but many of the soils are productive when fertilized.

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Located almost entirely within the tropics only some of the islands of the Bahamas lie to the north , the Caribbean islands experience a humid, tropical climate. It is this area, together with the Atlantic and Gulf Lowlands, that is most susceptible to hurricanes. Many of the islands represent only the tips of a long mountain range that rises from the ocean floor. Thus, however small the islands may be, almost all have a narrow coastal lowland that rises toward a mountainous interior.

The dominant vegetation pattern is broadleaf evergreen with some broadleaf deciduous intermixture. The agricultural resources of North America are immense. Much of this potential is located in the United States and southern Canada. Almost all of the Interior Plains and the Atlantic and Gulf Lowlands regions are suitable for agriculture. Significant areas within the Western Uplands—wherever water is available—are valuable crop or pasturelands, as are smaller sections of Middle America.

The population pressure on agricultural resources is uneven. The greatest demand is in Middle America, especially the Caribbean. The United States and Canada, however, are among the world's primary food exporters. Mineral fuel resources—coal, petroleum, and natural gas—are found in abundance in North America. They, too, are unevenly distributed. Three extensive coalfields Appalachian, and Eastern and Western Interior are located in the eastern half of the United States.

Many other, smaller and scattered, high-quality deposits are located throughout the eastern Rockies. Only Russia and possibly China possess coal deposits that might approach the size and quality of those located in the United States.

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Canada, too, has extensive reserves, although not generally as of high quality or in the same quantities as in the United States. The small deposits in northeastern Mexico near Monterrey are the only significant coalfields in Middle America.

The leading U. Significant deposits also occur in California, Alaska, and elsewhere. Canada continues to discover sizable deposits, especially along the eastern margin of the Rockies. Mexico has long known of major deposits along its portion of the Gulf Coast; exploration boosted official estimates of proven reserves more than sixfold between and North America's water resources are important for hydropower, irrigation, and transportation.

Canada's hydropower potential is concentrated in the Laurentian Mountains of the shield and in the major rivers of the far West. Most of the remaining undeveloped hydro potential is in the West. It is concentrated principally on the Columbia River and its major tributaries. Much of Middle America's hydro potential remains to be developed. In the arid western region aqueducts carry water for irrigation and municipal needs across many hundreds of kilometers, but much of the available water has already been used.

The navigable waterways of North America are exceptional. With relatively little modification, the Mississippi River and its tributaries provide access between the Gulf of Mexico and the heart of the Interior Plains. With the development of the St.


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  • North America also possesses an impressive array of high-quality metallic mineral deposits. Iron, nickel, copper, uranium, gold, and most other major metals are found in minable deposits, mostly in the shield and the Western Uplands. Bauxite, in short supply in North America, is found in the Ozarks and Jamaica. Of the economically important metallic minerals, only tungsten, tin, and chromium are insufficiently concentrated on the continent. As rich in resources as North America is, its people—especially those of the United States—impose high demands on these resources.

    The high consumption by the U. Within the continent, raw materials and primary foodstuffs flow from Canada and Middle America into the United States.

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    These high demand levels create environmental stress where less-accessible deposits are tapped and where concentrated waste is returned to the environment. They also contribute to economic stress as more expensive means must be used for extraction and higher prices paid for imports.

    Almost all of Canada's people live within km mi of the U. The remainder of the continent's population is divided between the Caribbean and Central American countries. Guatemala, in Central America, and Cuba, in the Caribbean, are by far the most populous. The pre-European population was also distributed unevenly. Indigenous groups totaling perhaps 15 million estimates vary widely lived in the mainland portion of Middle America by the end of the 15th century; the largest single concentration was in south central Mexico.

    Estimates of the indigenous population of all the rest, including the Caribbean, range from 2 million to more than 10 million. During the first century of Spanish colonial rule, the indigenous mainland population was reduced to about 3 million. The native Caribbean inhabitants virtually disappeared. Of the Europeans, the Spanish arrived first. By the early 16th century they had established their control over the already organized wealth of the Aztec empire in the Valley of Mexico and the strategically important isthmus of Central America.

    In addition, Spain occupied several of the larger islands in the Caribbean. Other European countries laid claim to sections of the Caribbean. Subsequently, they established outposts along the Atlantic coast.

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    The French early claimed the mouths of the two water routes to the interior, the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers. The Dutch temporarily held the mouth of the Hudson River. By the dominant European cultural patterns were established. Mexico and Central America were largely Spanish with a significant but diminished Amerindian influence. The Caribbean islands were very mixed culturally; their composition was complicated further by the introduction of Africans and, later, South Asians in some colonial holdings.

    View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title There are a variety of crisis symptoms confronting the Commonwealth Caribbean as the twenty-first-century dawns. About the Author : Don D. Review : 'The book is clearly a work of considerable scholarship and has quickly become an important influence in Caribean cultural analysis. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought.