Geography Dictionary

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NAFTA-see North American Free Trade Area.

Nationalisation - government policy which compels certain industries to transfer their ownership from private ownership to public ownership. May be driven by political-economic philosophy, the needs of major crises e.g. war, or to rescue essential, national-scale industries which are failing.

Nationalism -the placing, by the individual, of national interests over and above those of the individual, regional, or global. Can exist under all political, social and economic conditions, and across societal structures such as class.

National parks -large areas of countryside set aside for both the enjoyment of people and the conservation of the environment. They exist in many countries but are delimited and run differently according to prevailing conditions in each place. For example, in the USA they are often areas of extreme wilderness where very little development is allowed. As the country is so large, this is possible. By contrast, in the UK this approach cannot work as population density is so high, and land so scarce, that areas set aside as National Parks have to be rural areas where significant numbers of people live and work. Thus much of the land in UK National Parks is privately owned and conflict can arise between owners, conservationists and tourist/recreational users.

National Trust -in the UK, an organisation tasked with preserving historic and/or architecturally important buildings as well as areas of beautiful landscape. Inherent in this goal is that the preservation allows continued access by the general public to places deemed to have significant cultural import. National Trust locations charge entry fees, the organisation has a membership, and an effort is made to encourage donations.

Nation-state -a community organized under one government according to an idea of nationhood or nationality derived from, but not limited to, common ancestry, language, customs, religion, land ownership.

Natural decrease -in population studies, when the death rate is higher than the birth rate.

Natural increase -in population studies, when the birth rate is higher than the death rate.

Natural resources -the things we use that are provided in the natural environment e.g. water, minerals, fuels, soil and so on.

Nature reserve -an area of land set aside to protect the environment for its own sake. Development is prohibited and access is extremely restricted, usually to the reserve operators and scientists with a study connection to the species within.

Neap tide -a low tidal range caused when the angle of a line drawn from the sun to the earth and then to the moon is 90- In this twice-monthly situation the gravitational pulls of sun and moon are in opposition thus the high tide is not so high and the corresponding low tide is not so low.

Nearest neighbour analysis -a measure of how clustered or evenly spaced a distribution of points on a plane is.

                                       Rn = 2đ √ (n/A)

  where đ is the mean distance between nearest neighbours, n is the number of points, A is the area in which the distribution occurs 

            Values range from 2.15 for an evenly spaced distribution, through 1.0 for a random distribution to 0.0 for a highly clustered distribution.

Negative correlation -where the rise of one variable corresponds to the fall of another. It is important to note that correlation is not an indicator of causality.

Negative feedback -when the action of a system leads to a reduction in that action. For example, wave erosion of a cliff may undercut it and cause it to collapse. The fallen debris now protects the cliff so less erosion takes place.

Neo-colonialism -the holding of political or economic influence (or both) by one country over another.

Neo-Malthusianism -a contentious school which holds that Mathus theory of population dynamics is correct and that modern contraceptive technology and widespread acceptance of abortion are examples of preventative checks to population growth.

Net primary productivity -the amount of organic material available for consumption in a given area. GPP minus losses due to plant respiration.

Network -points (vertices) joined by links. The links allow transfers between the points. Examples might include roads, railways, sewage pipes, mobile phones and so on. The links are referred to as infrastructure and the whole is called a system. Networks take many different forms and have different levels of connectivity.

Névé -see firn.

Newly industrialised country -countries that have undergone rapid industrialisation since the 1960s. The process occurs when a determined effort is made to achieve import substitution and significantly increase exports of manufactured goods through competitive pricing. The term is most commonly applied to the four 'Asian tigers' of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, but this is becoming out of date. Most of Hong Kong's manufacturing moved to mainland China in the 1990s for example, although the factories are still managed from headquarter offices in Hong Kong.

New town -the targeted and rapid expansion of a settlement (although they may also be built from scratch) to alleviate the pressure of overly high demand for housing in a region, especially on existing cities.

NIC - see newly industrialised country.

Nimby - acronym from 'not in my back yard' applied to people who may agree to the idea of a development that is, on balance, of high social value, but who don't want the development in their own area because of the possible negative consequences that go with it. These may be environmental (noise, pollution) or social (changed class or racial structure). The objections are often unfounded and based on conjecture and prejudice. There is often a fear that changes will devalue an area literally in terms of property prices. As the most powerful people have the most success with the 'nimby' argument, developments often become concentrated in poorer areas giving strength to the 'nimby' case whereas if developments were more evenly spread it may be found that problems do not arise.

Nitrate -a nutrient essential to plant growth.

Nitrogen cycle -series of flows in an ecosystem which move nitrogen between various stores and allow it to perform functions essential for life. At its simplest level, nitrogen in the form of nitrates is taken in by plant roots and built into proteins which then enter herbivores. Excretion and decay then return the nitrogen to the soil as ammonia, which is converted back to nitrate by bacteria.

Nitrogen fixation -a process carried out by certain algae and soil bacteria whereby atmospheric nitrogen is incorporated to form nitrogen-based organic compounds. A crucial part of the nitrogen cycle.

Nivation -the expansion of a hollow through freeze-thaw under a patch of snow and the subsequent washing out of the debris by meltwater.

Nivation hollow -a circular depression in the ground, usually seen in periglacial areas, that has been created by nivation.

Node - in a transport network, a point where links join.

Nomad - a person without a permanent home who moves from place to place throughout the year seeking subsistence. Nomads usually follow a pastoral lifestyle and move with the seasons to find grazing and water for their livestock as they live in marginal areas where single locations cannot provide support all the year round.

Non-government organisation -any charity or volunteer association which takes on responsibility for a particular cause. Often starting on a small-scale and in response to a particular need e.g. a natural disaster, they can grow to have national or global influence, for example the National Trust and Greenpeace respectively.

Non-renewable resource -those resources considered to be finite as our rate of use far outstrips the rate at which they are formed e.g. coal.

Non-tariff barrier -a covert restriction to imported goods. Governments may not wish to be seen to restrict trade but can do so by introducing regulations, such as product labeling laws, which make it more difficult and more expensive for overseas producers to operate in the market.

North American Free Trade Area -Canada, Mexico and the USA. An attempt to create a single market area on the model of the European Union.

North Atlantic Drift -the name for the warm ocean current in the North-East Atlantic that originates in the Caribbean as the Gulf Stream.

Northing - the horizontal gridlines on a map so called because their numeric value increases from south to north.

North-South divide -the imaginary line separating the mostly EMDW of the North from the ELDW of the South.

NPP - see net primary productivity.

Nuclear energy -uranium is processed into uranium dioxide, which undergoes nuclear fission. In this reaction, the uranium nucleus splits and releases neutrons. Energy is released and the neutrons split more atoms causing a chain reaction. The energy is used to heat water and drive turbines to produce electricity. Despite being one of the most efficient and clean energy sources known, nuclear energy has been beset with controversy because:          waste fuel is highly dangerous and there are issues with moving and storing it.          accidents at nuclear plants, though rare, can be catastrophic over a wide area e.g. Chernobyl.          the technology for producing power takes a country well within the capability of producing nuclear weapons.

Nucleated settlement -the arrangement of buildings in a settlement in a tight cluster as a result of the landscape e.g. on top of a hill, around a road junction, in a meander loop and so on.

Nuée ardente -the superheated gases found in a pyroclastic cloud.

Nunatak -a mountain peak rising out from and above an ice sheet.

Nutrient -any chemical or compound which is used by an organism in order to survive and/or grow.

Nutrient cycle -the movement of nutrients in the ecosystem between the three major stores of the soil, biomass and litter. Nutrients are taken up from the soil by plant roots to produce biomass. In its simplest form this then dies and falls to the ground where it becomes litter. The litter then decomposes and is returned to the soil where the cycle begins again. Complications exist with movement of nutrients within the biomass e.g. when plants are eaten and then herbivores in their turn. There are also inputs and outputs depending on the scale of ecosystem being considered. Nutrients may enter through weathering or migrating organisms. They may be lost by leaching. The proportion of nutrients held in each store and in flow at any one time will be determined by the prevailing conditions of each ecosystem.

Nutrient sink -an ecosystem which has a tendency to store organic matter and thus the nutrients within it. E.g. peat bogs.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock.
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