Understanding the Systems Approach to Geology

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  • 0:01 Systems Approach
  • 1:30 Benefits
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Most geological events are influenced by many different factors. Instead of just looking at one factor, the systems approach to geology emphasizes a more holistic approach to understanding the world around us.

What Is the Systems Approach to Geology?

Think about the last mountain you saw. Have you ever wondered how it was created? In the past, geologists looked mainly at plate tectonics, which is the movement of the planet's outermost shell, to explain the formation of mountain ranges. In recent years, geologists have also started to include climate and erosion in their explanation for the formation of mountains.

It is now widely accepted that plate tectonics, climate, and erosion all play an important role in mountain formation. These three components all interact with each other to create mountains, and by studying all aspects of mountain formation, geologists can have a better understanding of this major event.

This new approach to studying geology is referred to as the systems approach. The systems approach is a method of studying geology that focuses on the larger natural system with its many interacting parts. Instead of looking at a geological event from only one perspective, the systems approach emphasizes looking at an event or problem on a larger scale.

The Earth is comprised of many natural processes that work together to form our land, climate, and resources. Part of the systems approach is looking at how the event being studied interacts with the rest of the natural world and is influenced by it.

Benefits of the Systems Approach to Geology

There are many benefits to the systems approach to geology. First, it encourages interdisciplinary work, which is the combination of two or more scientific fields. In the example of mountain formation, if you have one scientist that studies plate tectonics and another that studies erosion, they can come together and combine their knowledge to better understand mountain formation as a whole. In this manner, the systems approach attempts to make connections between different perspectives and ideas.

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