Geography is a component of Encyclopedia of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the global Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), which is an integrated compendium of twenty one Encyclopedias.
Geographical perceptions can be traced from very ancient cultures, although geography as a science started its development during the eighteen century, it was firmly established after the Darwinian revolution and many of its fundamentals appeared during the nineteenth century. The history of geography is closely connected with the history of human society Geography embraces both the physical and human worlds, and aims to bridge natural and human sciences. For a geographer, although the environment and its conservation is a crucial item, it is also fundamentally concerned with the living standards of humankind. Although its wide embrace may be seen as a weakness, diversification is also strength and an attraction. Approaches are multidisciplinary, exploring the complex linkages between the cultural and the natural. These favor cross-cultural communication and mutual understanding at a global scale. There is a geographical basis to most of the outstanding political problems, and geographical reasons to explain them. The subject matter of the geography theme is presented basically on how the subject matter is taught presently at the universities, and following the many paths its practitioners are following in doing research. It introduces modern subject matters and goes much further than a simple description of places and travels. The theme has been divided into four main topics: Foundations, Physical Geography, Human Geography, and Technical matters. The scope of the foundation topic is to present an overview of the basis of the geographical field, its scope, history, methods, and its importance in education. The chapters included are Main Stages of the Development, Theory and Methods, and Geographical Education.
The Physical Geography topic includes the historical background of the geographical study of the Earth natural environment, and the main fields cultivated by geographers. It consists of eight chapters on basic research fields, which are Geomorphology, Climatology, Hydrology, Biogeography, Soil Geography, Coastal Systems, Ocean Geography, Mountain Geoecology, and two chapters on environmental issues: Natural Hazards and Land Degradation and Desertification.
In the Human Geography topic six chapters discuss the more current fields, that is: Population, Cultural and Social, Agricultural and Rural, Industries and Transport, Economic Activities and Urban Geography. Three chapters present subjects developed more recently: Medical, Political and Tourism geographies. Finally, the Regional approach is presented as the most traditional and integrative field.
These volumes are aimed at the following five major target audiences: University and College students Educators, Professional practitioners, Research personnel and Policy analysts, managers, and decision makers and NGOs.
Maria Sala is Titular Professor of Physical Geography at the Department of Geography and Regional Science, University of Barcelona, and has a B.A. (Honors) degree in Geography (Physical Landscapes) and a Ph.D. (Honors) degree in Geography (Fluvial Geomorphology) from the University of Barcelona. Maria Sala leads the GRAM (Mediterranean Environment Research Group), which is recognized and funded by the University of Barcelona and the Catalan Autonomous Government. Her current research interests lie in the fields of fluvial geomorphology, soil and slope erosion, catchment hydrology, and water quality. Research in these fields has mainly been undertaken in the Catalan Coastal Ranges, although through co-operative work she has done research in the UK, the German Alps, Tunisia, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico. Her fundamental research is applied to environmental problems, mainly increased runoff and flooding as a result of expanding urban land-use and forest fires. Recent and current research has attracted substantial funding from a number of sources, including CICYT (Spanish Ministry of Education), CIRIT (Catalan Council for Research), and the EU. Current investigations include: Hydrology and sediment dynamics in Mediterranean mountain catchments; Effects of prescribed burningin soil parameters and in increased runoff and erosion; Morphological changes and sediment transport in the bed of a Mediterranean river, and Fluvial transport of suspended material: sources, routing, storage,and yield.
Professor Sala has been visiting scientist at the Centre de Géographie Appliquée, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, under the guidance of Professor Jean Tricart (climatic geomorphology, 1975), and at the Department of Geological Sciences, Seattle, under the guidance of Professor Thomas Dunne (Fluvial and slope processes, 1984).
Regular courses taught include: Physical Geography; Geomorphology; Erosional Processes in Slopes; Hydrology of Surface Waters; Theory and Method in Physical Geography; Fluvial Geomorphology; Hydrography and Soil Geography. Courses taught by invitation include: Geomorphological Processes (Departamento Geografía, Universidad Autónoma, Mexico, 1983), and Fluvial and Slope Processes (Departamento de Geología, Universidad de Salta, Argentina, 1991). At a European level she is the Spanish co-ordinator of ERASMUS Inter-University Co-operation between the Universities of Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, St. Andrews, Uppsala, and Cáceres. Professor Sala has contributed to several research groups, including the European Society for Soil Conservation (ESSC), where she has served as Vice-President (1988–92) and Council Member (1988–6), and the International Geographical Union, where she has been the Chair of the Study Group on Erosion and Desertification in Regions of Mediterranean Climate (1992–6) and of the Commission on Land Degradation and Desertification (1996–2000). She is member of the editorial boards of several international journals, such as Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, and Geomorphology of Brazil Journal. She has been a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) since 1990.
Professor Sala’s scientific publications include more than eighty articles, thirty-three at an international level. She has contributed nineteen chapters to books, the most significant of the international ones dealing with regional geomorphology of the Iberian Peninsula and Mediterranean region fluvial and slope erosion. She has produced seventeen books, that considered most significant being Conacher, A. and Sala, M. (eds.), Land Degradation in the World’s Mediterranean Environments: Nature and Extent, Causes and Solutions, John Wiley, London (1998).