Land is the solid surface of the Earth
that is not permanently covered by water
. The vast majority of human activity throughout history has occurred in land areas that support agriculture
, and various natural resource
s. Some life forms, including terrestrial plant
s and terrestrial animal
s, have developed from predecessor species that originated in bodies of water
Areas where land meets large bodies of water are called coastal zones
. The division between land and water is a fundamental concept to humans. The demarcation line
between land and water can vary by local jurisdiction and other factors. A maritime boundary
is one example of a political demarcation. A variety of natural boundaries exist to help clearly define where water meets land. Solid rock landform
s are easier to demarcate than marshy or swampy boundaries, where there is no clear point at which the land ends and a body of water has begun. Demarcation lines can further vary due to tides and weather.
In reference to business terminology land is also associated with Factor of production
, as well as land is the first factor of production and the income or profit earned with help of land is treated as rent.
Etymology and terminology
The word 'land' is derived from Middle English ''land'', ''lond'' and Old English
''land'', ''lond'' (“earth, land, soil, ground; defined piece of land, territory, realm, province, district; landed property; country (not town); ridge in a ploughed field”), from Proto-Germanic ''*landą'' (“land”), and from Proto-Indo-European ''*lendʰ-'' (“land, heath”). Cognate with Scots ''land'' (“land”), West Frisian ''lân'' (“land”), Dutch ''land'' (“land”), German ''Land'' (“land, country, state”), Swedish ''land'' (“land, country, shore, territory”), Icelandic ''land'' (“land”). Non-Germanic cognates include Old Irish ''lann'' (“heath”), Welsh ''llan'' (“enclosure”), Breton ''lann'' (“heath”), Old Church Slavonic ''lędо'' from Proto-Slavic ''*lenda'' (“heath, wasteland”) and Albanian ''lëndinë'' (“heath, grassland”) from ''lëndë'' (“matter, substance”).
A continuous area of land surrounded by ocean is called a "landmass". Although it may be most often written as one word to distinguish it from the usage "land mass
"—the measure of land area—it is also used as two words. Landmasses include supercontinent
s, and island
s. There are four major continuous landmasses on Earth
, the Americas
. Land capable of being plough
ed and used to grow crop
s, is called arable land
. A country
or region may be referred to as the motherland
, or homeland
of its people. Many countries and other places have names incorporating -land
, New Zealand
History of land on Earth
The earliest material found in the Solar System is dated to (billion years ago);
therefore, the Earth itself must have been formed by accretion
around this time. By ,
the primordial Earth had formed. The formation and evolution of the Solar System
bodies occurred in tandem with the Sun. In theory, a solar nebula
partitions a volume out of a molecular cloud
by gravitational collapse, which begins to spin and flatten into a circumstellar disc
, which the planets then grow out of in tandem with the star. A nebula contains gas, ice grains and dust
(including primordial nuclide
s). In nebular theory
s commence forming as particulate
matter accrues by cohesive clumping
and then by gravity. The assembly of the primordial Earth proceeded for 10–.
Earth's atmosphere and oceans were formed by volcanic
activity and outgassing
that included water vapor
. The origin of the world's oceans
was condensation augmented by water and ice delivered by asteroid
, and comet
In this model
, atmospheric "greenhouse gas
es" kept the oceans from freezing while the newly forming Sun was only at 70% luminosity
By , the Earth's magnetic field
was established, which helped prevent the atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind
The atmosphere and oceans of the Earth continuously shape the land by eroding and transporting solids on the surface.
, which currently forms the Earth's land, was created when the molten outer layer of the planet Earth cooled to form a solid mass
as the accumulated water vapor began to act in the atmosphere. Once land became capable of supporting life, biodiversity evolved over hundreds of million years, expanding continually except when punctuated by mass extinctions.
The two models
that explain land mass propose either a steady growth to the present-day forms
or, more likely, a rapid growth
early in Earth history
followed by a long-term steady continental area.
Continents formed by plate tectonics
, a process ultimately driven by the continuous loss of heat from the Earth's interior. On time scales
lasting hundreds of millions of years, the supercontinent
s have formed and broken apart three times. Roughly (million years ago), one of the earliest known supercontinents, Rodinia
, began to break apart. The continents later recombined to form Pannotia
, 600–, then finally Pangaea
, which also broke apart .
"Land area" (also known as "land mass") refers to the total surface area
of the land of a geographical region
(which may include discontinuous sections of land such as island
's total planimetric (flat) land area is approximately which is about 29.2% of its total surface, including that which is covered by ice. Water covers approximately 70.8% of planimetric Earth's surface, mainly in the form of ocean
s and ice formations; but this proportion is decreased by the land's increased terrain.
"Land cover" is the physical material at the surface of the earth.
* Terrain and topsoil relief increase total land cover to approximately 64,000 million hectares (64 Gha) but proportions remain about the same
s in many religion
s recall a story involving the creation of the world by a supernatural deity
or deities, including accounts wherein the land is separated from the oceans and the air. The Earth itself has often been personified as a deity
, in particular a goddess
. In many cultures, the mother goddess
is also portrayed as a fertility deity
. To the Aztec
s, Earth was called ''Tonantzin
''—"our mother"; to the Incas
, Earth was called ''Pachamama
''—"mother earth". The Chinese Earth goddess Hou Tu
is similar to Gaia
, the Greek goddess personifying the Earth. Bhuma Devi
is the goddess of Earth in Hinduism
, influenced by Graha
. In Norse mythology
, the Earth giantess Jörð
was the mother of Thor
and the daughter of Annar
. Ancient Egyptian mythology
is different from that of other cultures because Earth (Geb
) is male and sky (Nut
) is female.
In the past, there were varying levels of belief in a flat Earth
. The Jewish conception of a flat earth is found in both biblical and post-biblical times.
[The picture of the universe in Talmudic texts has the Earth in the center of creation with heaven as a hemisphere spread over it. Biblical writings, such as the Genesis creation story and the various Psalms that extol the firmament, the stars, the sun, and the earth, give similar explanations. The Hebrews saw the earth as an almost flat surface consisting of a solid and a liquid part and the sky as the realm of light in which heavenly bodies move. The earth rested on cornerstones and could not be moved except by Jehovah (as in an earthquake). According to the Hebrews, the sun and the moon were only a short distance from one another. "Cosmology." Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2012. Author: Giorgio Abetti, Astrophysical Observatory of Arcetri-Firenze.] [The Earth is usually described as a disk encircled by water. Cosmological and metaphysical speculations were not to be cultivated in public nor were they to be committed to writing. Rather, they were considered to be "secrets of the Torah not to be passed on to all and sundry" (Ketubot 112a). While study of God's creation was not prohibited, speculations about "what is above, what is beneath, what is before, and what is after" (Mishnah Hagigah: 2) were restricted to the intellectual elite. (Topic Overview: Judaism, Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, Ed. J. Wentzel Vrede van Huyssteen. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2003. pp. 477–483. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson).]right|thumb|''Imago Mundi
'' Babylonian map, the oldest known world map, 6th century BC Babylonia
In early Egyptian and Mesopotamian thought
, the world was portrayed as a flat disk floating in the ocean. The Egyptian universe was pictured as a rectangular box with a north–south orientation and with a slightly concave surface, with Egypt in the center. A similar model is found in the Homeric
account of the 8th century BC in which "Okeanos, the personified body of water surrounding the circular surface of the Earth, is the begetter of all life and possibly of all gods." The biblical earth
is a flat disc floating on water.
The Pyramid Texts
and Coffin Texts
reveal that the ancient Egyptians believed Nun
(the ocean) was a circular body surrounding ''nbwt'' (a term meaning "dry lands" or "islands"), and therefore believed in a similar Ancient Near Eastern circular Earth cosmography surrounded by water.
The spherical form of the Earth was suggested by early Greek philosophers
, a belief espoused by Pythagoras
. Contrary to popular belief, most educated people in the Middle Ages
did not believe the Earth was flat: this misconception is often called the "Myth of the Flat Earth
". As evidenced by thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas
, the European belief in a spherical Earth
was widespread by this point in time. Prior to circumnavigation of the planet and the introduction of space flight
, belief in a spherical Earth was based on observations of the secondary effects of the Earth's shape and parallels drawn with the shape of other planets.
Most planets known to humans are either gaseous Jovian planets
or solid terrestrial planets
. Terrestrial planets include Mercury
, and Mars
. These inner planets have a rocky surface with metal interiors. The Jovian planets consist of Jupiter
, and Neptune
. While these planets are larger, their only land surface is a small rocky core surrounded by a large, thick atmosphere. The gas giant
s, Jupiter and Saturn, are thought to have surface layers composed of liquid hydrogen
rather than solid land; however, their planetary geology
is not well understood. The possibility of Uranus and Neptune (the ice giant
s) possessing hot, highly compressed, supercritical water under their thick atmospheres has been hypothesised. While their composition is still not fully understood, a 2006 study by Wiktorowicz et al. ruled out the possibility of such a water "ocean" existing on Neptune,
though some studies have suggested that exotic oceans of liquid diamond are possible.
The entire surface of a rocky planet or moon is considered land, even with a lack of seas or oceans for contrast. Planetary bodies that have a thin atmosphere often have land that is marked by impact craters since atmospheric conditions would normally break-down incoming objects and erode rough impact sites. Land on planetary bodies other than Earth can also be bought and sold although ownership of extraterrestrial real estate
is not recognized by any authority.
Land and climate
The land of the Earth interacts with and influences climate
heavily since the surface of the land heats up and cools down faster than air or water.
[PBS Learning Medi] Latitude
The Effect of Land Masses on Climate
, and land use
all have varying effects. The latitude of the land will influence how much solar radiation
reaches the surface. High latitudes receive less solar radiation than low latitudes.
The height of the land is important in creating and transforming airflow and precipitation
on Earth. Large landforms, such as mountain ranges, divert wind energy and make the air parcel less dense and able to hold less heat.
As air rises, this cooling effect causes condensation
Reflectivity of the earth is called planetary albedo
and the type of land cover that receives energy from the sun affects the amount of energy that is reflected or transferred to Earth.
[Alan Betts: Atmospheric Researc] Vegetation
The Climate Energy Balance of the Earth
has a relatively low albedo meaning that vegetated surfaces are good absorbers of the sun's energy. Forests
have an albedo of 10–15% while grasslands
have an albedo of 15–20%. In comparison, sandy deserts
have an albedo of 25–40%.
Land use by humans also plays a role in the regional and global climate. Densely populated cities are warmer and create urban heat islands
that have effects on the precipitation, cloud cover, and temperature of the region.
International Association of GeomorphologistsPhysicalGeography.net educational website