Natural and social elements – Concept, differences and examples


We explain what natural and social elements are in geography, the differences between them and examples of each one.

Natural and social elements
Natural and social elements often exist in combination.

What are the natural and social elements?

In geography, we speak of natural elements and social elements to refer to the two fundamental types of components of geographic space, that is, to the two categories of objects that constitute it. These elements occupy a place and a territorial space, and usually exist in a combined way.

However, they can be easily distinguished from each other, since natural elements are the fruit of nature, spontaneous, while social elements are derived from human actions and history. This difference between one and the other can be summarized as follows:

Natural elementsSocial elements
They are created by nature, spontaneously.They are the result of the action of the human being and the modifications that it incorporates into its environment.
They have an existence of their own and independent of the human being.They are limited to human life: culture, society, the economy.
They make up the environment and various ecosystems.They make up human civilization.
They can be economically exploited by humans.They allow human beings to live in an organized and safe way.

Paying attention to these two types of elements of the geographical space, we can detail the landscape, and observe what is unique in each place.

See also: Urban area and rural area

Examples of natural elements

Natural and social elements examples
Natural elements are all those not created by humans.

Some examples of natural elements are the following:

  • The vegetation in its different forms: trees, shrubs, plants, herbs, etc.
  • The immense variety of the animal kingdom: insects, mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, etc.
  • The beings of the microscopic world, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, etc.
  • The chemical elements that make up the Earth itself and that we can find in the form of minerals, stones, rocks and crystals.
  • Water courses such as rivers, lakes, lagoons and seas, as well as frozen water from ice in mountains, icebergs, etc.
  • The mass of gases that make up the atmosphere and that we call “air”.
  • The mountains and elevations of the land surface relief.

Examples of social elements

Natural and social elements agriculture examples
Agriculture is a social element that uses natural elements.

Some examples of social elements are the following:

  • The cities, towns, villages, hamlets and all kinds of human settlement, including cemeteries.
  • Any type of buildings: houses, buildings, palaces, temples, etc.
  • Engineering works: bridges, stairs, streets, squares, highways, etc.
  • The borders and political boundaries between countries and nations, as well as countries and nations themselves.
  • Cultural traits of the human population: the language they speak, the religion they practice, the traditions they share.
  • The walls, fences, fences and other human-built barriers.
  • The crops, farms, farms and all areas of agricultural activity, as well as mines and sawmills.