Syllabus of Physical Geography

Course Name: Physical Geography

Credits: 3.0

Level: Undergraduate

Pre-requisite: None

Lecture Time: 60 Credit hours (15 weeks, 2 sessions/week, 2 hours/session)

Instructors: Prof. Dr. Changhe Lv, Prof. Dr. Junhu Dai

Course Description: This is a basic course designed for undergraduates majoring in human geography, and can be selected as an elective course for undergraduates majoring in environmental and ecological sciences. The course mainly introduces the concepts and elements of physical geographical environments, including the characteristics of the shape and rotation of the Earth, the generating elements and types of the climates around our planet, as well as their spatiotemporal changes, the hydrology and water resources, the creation of landforms and their geomorphic types, soil types and geographical distribution, and different terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the formation of various biomes and vegetations. Finally, we will also introduce the application of above concepts and theories in environment protection and management, such as the integrated geographic regionalization, evaluation of land values. Through classroom teaching, students can master the basic knowledge, theories and analyzing methods of physical geography, and understand the integrity and regionalization of physical environment. As results, students can be capable of the analysis the composition and interaction of environmental elements, and have the basic skills for classification of physical environment.

Recommended textbook: Guanghe Wu, et al. 2008. Physical Geography (4 th edition). Beijing: Higher Education Press. 502 pp.

Topics and Schedule

  1. Introduction (2 hr)
  2. 1Physical geography and its objects and main tasks
  3. 2Advances of physical geography and branchdiscipline
  4. 3Relationship between physical geography and other related discipline
    1. An introduction to the Earth (4 hr)
  5. 1Shape of the Earth and characteristics of its rotation
  6. 2Structure of spheres of the Earth and their evolution
    1. Weather and climate (8 hr)
  7. 1Composition of atmosphere, temperature and precipitation
  8. 2Motions of the atmosphere and weather systems
  9. 3Formation of climate
  10. 4Climate change
    1. Hydrology and water resources (2 hr)
  11. 1Global water distribution and circulation
  12. 2Sea water and Marine resources
  13. 3Surface water (rivers, lakes, marshes, ice and snow)
  14. 4Underground water
    1. Geomorphology (8 hr)
  15. 1Geomorphology and landform types
  16. 2Fluvial landforms and coastal landforms
  17. 3Aeolian landform
  18. 4Karst landforms and glacial landforms
    1. Soils and soil resources (8 hr)
  19. 1Composition of soil substances, formation of soils and relationship with geographical environments
  20. 2Soil classification and spatial distribution patterns of soil
  21. 3Introduction to Chinese Soil Classification System
  22. 4Different soil types, their characteristics and soil resources
    1. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (10 hr)
  23. 1Biosphere on the Earth, biology and environment.
  24. 2Plant population, community, and ecosystems
  25. 3Different ecosystems on Earth
  26. 4Biodiversity and protections
  27. 5Socio-economic-natural complex ecosystem
    1. Comprehensive study of physical geography (8 hr)
  28. 1Integrity characteristics of physical environment
  29. 2Geographical differentiation and natural zoning
  30. 3Land types and land evaluation
  31. 4Interaction between man and land, and protection of physical environment
    1. Review and answer questions (4 hr)
  32. 1 Review
  33. 2 Answer questions


The homework and class attendance will be graded, which count for 30% of the total scores. At the end of the class it will be followed by a closed-book examination, which will count for 70% of the total scores.


[1]       Gabler, R.E., Petersen, J.F., Trapasso, L.M., Sack, D. (2009) Physical Geography, 9th ed. Brooks/Cole. 552 pp.

[2]       Gabler, R.E., Petersen, J.F., Trapasso, L.M., Sager, R.J., Wise, D.L. (2007) Essentials of physical geography, 8th ed. Thomson, Brooks. 641 pp.

[3]       Holden, J. (2012) An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment, 3rd ed. Pearson Education Limited. 876 pp.

[4]       Petersen, J., Sack, D., Gabler, R.E. (2015) Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2 nd ed. Brooks/Cole. 544 pp.

[5]       Strahler, A.H. (2013) Introducing Physical Geography, 6th ed. Willey. 656 pp.

[6]       Bingwei Huang, Du Zheng and Mingcha Zhao. (1999) Modern Physical Geography. Science Press. 366 pp. (in Chinese)

[7]       Jijun Meng. (2011) Integrated Physical Geography, 2 nd ed. Peking University Press. 325 pp. (In Chinese).

[8]       Guanghe Wu and Yunlong Cai (2004) Integrated Physical Geography. Higher Education Press. 377pp. (In Chinese).

[9]       Jihua Wu, Shen Zhang, Yuan Jiang, Muyi Kang and Yang Qiu. (2004) Plant Geography, 4th ed. Higher Education Press. 382pp. (In Chinese).

[10]    Shuzhen Zhu (1997) Meteorology and Climatology. Higher Education Press. 260 pp. (In Chinese)