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Recommended classesIrish regionsEuropean regionsContinental / sub-continental region

Core Unit 2- The Dynamics of Regions.

“The study of regions shows how economic, human and physical processes interact in a particular area”

Recommended classes

This section involves:

  1. The study of two contrasting Irish regions- 10 class periods recommended H. level; 15 O. level.
  2. The study of two contrasting European regions-16 class periods recommended H. level; 20 O. level.
  3. The study of one continental or sub-continental region-10 class periods recommended H. level; 12 O. level.
    Remember, the number of class periods recommended by the syllabus for any section is an indication of the significance of that section.

Students are expected to study the physical, economic and human processes in each of their five chosen regions. The emphasis is on regions rather than on national boundaries or countries.  The chosen regions can be within one political entity e.g. the Mezoigiorno (Italy) or can cross national boundaries e.g. Norrland (northern Norway and Sweden). Students should gain an understanding of the character of the region and be able to identify the key characteristics which distinguish it from other regions.

Two contrasting Irish regions

The obvious basic division that can be made is between the east and west of the country. One could look at the division in broad terms such as Agriculture and manufacturing and this would provide a classic example of internal regional variations. The east can be seen as a relatively prosperous core region while the west is a peripheral region.

West of Ireland: here the difficult physical environment (mountainous terrain, infertile soils and high rainfall levels) hamper agricultural development. This peripheral region has many small pastoral farms, where average family income levels are less than the average for the country. Approximately half of all farmers in the West are over 55 years of age and are very conservative in their farming methods-therefore, there is little chance that things will improve greatly in the near future.
East of Ireland: agriculture in the eastern part of Ireland takes place mainly on large mechanised arable and dairy farms and the income levels there are accordingly high. The success of farming in this core region is mainly attributed to low-lying and fertile ground and to the suitability of the climate for growth. Also, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) tended to favour the larger farmers and so it widened the gap between farmers in the east and those in the west.

The East
, or core region, is the favoured location for industrial development. This is due to well developed infrastructure, large urban markets, an educated workforce, etc.  By the beginning of this century, over one third of the industrial workforce were located in the east.
Disadvantages of the west for the location of manufacturing include:
Its peripheral location, a poor transportation infrastructure, the absence of markets.
The Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has focused on attracting development to western regions in an attempt to increase economic growth there.
Specifically students should limit their study to the Dublin region (a typical core region) and an area in the west e.g. Galway/Mayo/Roscommon (a typical peripheral region). As with all other regions, students need to study their 5 chosen ones under the following headings:

  • Physical processes—climate, soils, relief
  • Economic processes—primary, secondary and tertiary activities
  • Human processes-population dynamics, urban and rural development

Dublin Region
A core region. This is Ireland’s smallest but most populous region. The Dublin region covers just over 1% of the total land area, but has almost 29% of the total population of Ireland. Students need to know about the physical characteristics of the region, for example it is the driest part of the country with good quality soils (mainly brown earths). The exception here is the Dublin mountain area with its significant granite outcrop (see Core Unit One,statement 2). Patterns in Dublin’s manufacturing activities and the significance of tertiary activities should also be noted. Difficulties caused by urban sprawl, social exclusion and the need for inner city renewal also need attention, especially at H level. A key to the successful study of this section is the ability to place the Dublin region into the context of successful, expanding core city regions in other areas. In other words, be able to compare and contrast Dublin with the urban area you are studying at the European level.

The West of Ireland (e.g. Galway/ Mayo/Roscommon).
A peripheral region with most of the difficulties associated with such regions. This area comprises almost 20% of the total land area of the state (Dublin just over 1%) and has just under 10% of the total population (Dublin has almost 29%). The population density is about half the national average. Agriculture in the west faces many physical problems including a higher than average annual rainfall and soils of poor quality. Outward migration in these three counties has resulted in an imbalance in the age and structure, and consequently, the area has a high dependency ratio. Despite many improvements (often with the help of EU fund) the region still suffers from a deficit in its communication structure. Many roads and the key rail links need urgent upgrading. Despite the above, students should be aware of the potential in this region. There are possibilities for development in fishing, off-shore gas and tourism for example. Students need to place their study of the west in the context of their study of other peripheral regions e.g. the Mezzogiorno in Italy or Norrland in Scandinavia.

Two contrasting European Regions

Here students have a wide variety of regions to choose from. The obvious point to note is that the two chosen regions should be contrasting. As with the contrasting Irish regions, students should examine these regions under such headings as:

  • physical processes—climate, soils relief
  • economic processes—primary, secondary, tertiary activities
  • human processes—population dynamics, urban and rural development.          

Students should gain an understanding of the character of their chosen region and be able to identify the key characteristics which distinguish it from other regions. The variety of regions available for study is wide and suggestions include:

The Mezzogiorno (Peripheral Regions such as the Mezzogiorno or the Massif Central in France)

Physical environment: The Appenines are a mountain range which run right down the centre of this region and they are sometimes referred to as ”the backbone of Italy”. Generally soils are poor throughout. The region has a Mediterranean climate.

Primary economic activities: The Mezzogiorno is a peripheral or problem region. Students should be able to give some reasons for poor agricultural development here (94% of farms are considered small). The reasons include poor soil quality, low rainfall and the fact that 80% of the land is either hilly or mountainous.

Secondary economic activities: Manufacturing is poorly developed overall in the Mezzogiorno. Reasons for this include poor energy supplies, poor communications and poor markets. Attempts have been made by the government since the early 1960s to solve these problems. The work of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (a development fund in operation up until the 1980s) is important here.

Tertiary economic activities: The Mediterranean climate is an excellent tourist attraction. The region needs, however, to develop the transport infrastructure and tourist facilities so as to reap the benefits of the tourist industry. Attractions in the region include Rome, Sicily, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.

The Massif Central (France)
Physical environment. The climate of this region varies according to altitude. Precipitation, normally in the form of snow is common. The landscape is made up of limestone rock and volcanic ash, which renders much of the ground infertile.  Many streams and rivers flow through the region.
Primary economic activities: This peripheral region is dominated by subsistence farming. Crops such as wheat and barley are grown in some valleys. In higher  altitudes, cattle and sheep are left grazing in the summer. Out-migration of young people is a problem, leaving behind old, conservative farmers. The physical and human causes of poor primary activity should be studied here.
Secondary economic activities: This part of the study concentrates on the fact that the economy of the Massif Central has suffered on account of its over-dependence on coal for manufacturing industry. Much heavy industry e.g. iron and steel, has closed due to a significant decline in coal reserves.
Tertiary economic activities: Tourism is an important tertiary activity in most economies, but the Massif Central’s capacity to benefit from it is hampered by its poor transport and communications infrastructure. However, the government has introduced measures to develop this industry and make the region more attractive to tourists.

The Plain of Lombardy (Core regions such as the Plain of Lombardy or the Paris Basin)

Physical environment: This region consists of fertile soils resulting from glacial deposition, with the river Po dominating the drainage pattern. Summers are long and warm while winters are short but very cold.

Primary economic activities : The Plain of Lombardy accounts for 40% of total agricultural production in Italy. Intensive farming activities such as dairying and tillage are important here, as is the development of market gardening near the towns and cities.

Secondary economic activities: The industrial triangle of Milan, Turin and Genoa dominates the economic development not only of this core region but also of the entire country. It is important to be familiar with industrial development in each city. Milan, for example, is considered the financial, commercial and industrial capital of Italy; Turin’s industrial activity is dominated by the Fiat works and Genoa has many heavy industries.

Tertiary economic activities: The city of Venice benefits significantly from tourism, attracting more than two million visitors per year. Milan is a famous fashion centre. A study of tourism in this region is most concerned with its urban centres.

The Paris Basin

Physical environment: Two climate types influence this region. There is a maritime climate near the coast, while further inland a continental climate dominates. Geographically, this region is very centrally placed in relation to the rest of Europe. The Paris Basin has low-lying, well-drained, fertile loess soils.

Primary economic activities: The Paris Basin is known as “the granary of France” as 60% of French cereal production occurs here. The primary economic activity of the region is intensive, commercialised farming. Market gardening is practised on a large scale around Paris and wine production is important to the economy in the north and northeast of the region.

Secondary economic activities : This core region has many examples of successful industries. Farming provides raw materials for food processing industries. Paris is home to car manufacturing, oil-refining, iron and steel, petrochemical, perfume and clothing industries.

Tertiary economic activities: Tourism is the main case study for tertiary activity in the Paris Basin. Accessibility to France is a key factor in the development of tourism.

One Continental/subcontinental Region

What is required here is the study of one large area outside of Europe. As this is potentially a continent wide study, students are not required to go into the same detail as they would for the study of the two Irish region, for example. Remember, at H level the syllabus allocates 10 class periods to the study of the Irish regions and a similar 10 class periods to the study of the continental/sub-continental region. There are many areas that students can focus on for this section including, the Southern USA, Brazil or the Indian subcontinent. As with the other regions, students should examine their chosen continental region under such headings as:

  • physical processes---climate, soils, relief
  • economic processes----primary, secondary and tertiary activities
  • human processes----population dynamics, urban and rural development.

The study of India would include a knowledge of the Monsoon climate with its two distinct seasons, the dry monsoon (October to June) and the wet monsoon (June to September). The influence of this climate and that of the varied relief of the area on agriculture and other primary activities should also be noted. India’s recent development as an important manufacturing centre and developing I.T. centre are also of interest. India is a very suitable study for the elective and optional units of the syllabus. For instance, spatial variations in economic development in (Elective 4 Patterns and Processes in Economic Activity) could be studied in relation to the range of economic development evident in India today. Likewise, the influence of population patterns on levels of human development (Elective Unit 5 Patterns and Processes in the Human Environment) or the problems of religious conflict (Optional Unit 8, Culture and Identity) can be easily illustrated with regard to the Indian subcontinent.


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