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Types of Borders

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Borders and boundaries are found worldwide. You are probably well aware of borders on land that separate regions and countries, but did you know that there are also borders and boundaries that divide the waters around us and the airspace above us? Borders and boundaries can either be natural or artificial/manmade. Some are legally binding, some appear on maps and some are created by your huffy neighbours who put up a fence. No matter what, borders and boundaries are all around us and influence our lives every single day.

Borders – definition

Borders are geographic boundaries that can be divided into physical borders and political borders. It can be a real or artificial line that separates geographic areas.

Borders are, by definition, political boundaries, and they separate countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, and towns.

Borders – meaning

As mentioned in the definition, borders are political boundaries, and often, these boundaries are guarded. We rarely see border control within Europe and the EU when crossing a border. An example outside Europe/the EU is the border between the US and Canada, where a person, and potentially their vehicle, will be checked by customs officers when crossing.

Borders are not fixed; they can change over time. This can happen through violence when people take over a region, trade or sell land, or divide the land and give it out in measured portions after war through international agreements.

Types of borders geography, migration and identity, Study SmarterBorder Patrol Check-point, pixabay.com

Boundaries

The words 'boundaries' and 'borders' are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same.

As mentioned above, a border is a dividing line between two countries. It separates one country from another. They are, by definition, political boundaries.

A boundary is the outer edge of a region or area of land. This line, either real or imaginary, separates geographical regions of the Earth. It shows where one area/region ends, and another begins.

The definition of a physical boundary is a naturally occurring barrier between two areas. These can be rivers, mountain ranges, oceans, or deserts. These are also called natural boundaries.

Natural boundaries

In many cases, but not always, political boundaries between countries or states are formed along physical boundaries. Natural boundaries are natural features that create a physical boundary between regions.

Two examples are:

  1. The boundary between France and Spain. This follows the crest of the Pyrenees mountains.
  2. The boundary between the US and Mexico. This follows the Rio Grande river.

Natural boundaries are recognisable geographic features, such as mountains, rivers, or deserts. These natural boundaries are a logical choice as they are visible, and they tend to interfere with human movement and interaction.

A political boundary is a line of separation, usually only visible on a map. A natural boundary has length and breadth dimensions. With a natural boundary, however, all countries involved must agree on a method of marking a boundary line, using methods such as stones, poles, or buoys.

Different types of natural boundaries

The different types of physical boundaries include:

  1. Frontiers.
  2. Rivers and lakes.
  3. Ocean or maritime borders.
  4. Tectonic plates.
  5. Mountains.

Frontiers

Frontiers are vast unsettled or underpopulated areas that separate and protect countries from each other, and they often function as natural boundaries. Frontiers can be deserts, marshes, frigid lands, oceans, forests, and/or mountains.

For example, Chile developed while surrounded by frontiers. Chile's political core is in Santiago Valley. To the north lies the Atacama Desert, to the east lies the Andes, to the south lies frigid lands, and to the west lies the Pacific Ocean. The Andes Mountains are a remaining frontier, acting as a natural boundary between Chile and Argentina.

Rivers and lakes

These boundaries are quite common between nations, states, and counties, and about 1/5th of the world's political boundaries are rivers.

Examples of waterway boundaries are:

  • Strait of Gibraltar: a narrow waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is the boundary between southwestern Europe and north-western Africa.
  • The Rio Grande: forming the boundary between the US and Mexico.
  • The Mississippi River: a defining boundary between many of the states that it flows through, such as Louisiana and Mississippi.

Types of border geography, strait of gibraltar, boundary, Study SmarterStrait of Gibraltar separating Europe and North Africa, Wikimedia Commons

Oceans/maritime borders

Oceans are vast expanses of water that separate countries, islands, and even whole continents from one another. With improved navigation of the seas/oceans in the 1600s came the need for legal statuses, starting with the British claiming the three nautical mile (3.45 mi/5.6km) limit in 1672, which was about the distance a cannon projectile could travel.

In 1930, the League of Nations accepted this three nautical mile limit, which was standardised by the Supreme Court of Holland in 1703. After World War II, states began turning increasingly to the seas for their resources, transport ease, and strategic value. Consequently, In 1982, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, came to the following agreements:

  • Territorial sea: for coastal states, the territorial sea can extend up to 12 nautical miles (13.81 mi/22km) from the shoreline, with complete sovereignty of all the sea's resources, including seabed and subsoil, as well as the airspace directly above it. The coastal state controls the access by foreign nations into their territorial sea area.
  • Contiguous zone: a coastal state can extend legal rights for foreign vessel control in a zone that is contiguous to its territorial sea, and this zone can be up to 12 nautical miles (13.81 mi/22km) wide. Within this zone, similar to the territorial sea, customs and military agencies can board foreign vessels in search of contraband such as illegal drugs or terrorists. They can seize this contraband.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): This zone generally extends out from the territorial sea to 200 nautical miles (230mi/370km). However, sometimes the zone can extend to the edge of the continental shelf, which can be as far as 350 nautical miles (402mi/649km). Within this EEZ, a coastal nation has sovereignty over the resources in their zone, fishing, and environmental protection. Furthermore, the coastal nation has complete control over the exploitation of resources, including mining minerals, drilling for oil, and using water, currents, and windows for energy production.A coastal nation can give foreigners access for scientific research

Contiguous = adjoining, neighboring, or touching

The largest EEZ is France. This is due to all the overseas territories all over the oceans. All the French territories and departments combined have an EEZ of 3,791,998 square miles, the equivalent of 96.7%.

Tectonic plates

Interactions between tectonic plates also create activities on their boundaries. There are different types of boundaries:

  • Divergent boundary: this happens when tectonic plates move away from each other. This can create ocean trenches and, eventually, continents.
  • Convergent plate boundary: this happens when one plate slides under another plate. This can create volcanoes and earthquakes.
  • Transform boundary: also known as a transform fault. This happens when plates grind past each other, which can create earthquake fault lines.

Mountains

Mountains can form a physical boundary between two or more countries. Mountains were always considered a great way of forming a boundary because they held back or slowed down people trying to cross the boundary. That being said, mountains are not the best place to demarcate boundaries.

Surveys may define the boundary along the highest summit, the watershed, or points along the base of the slopes. However, many of the current dividing lines have been drawn after various places were settled, meaning that they separated people who share the same language, culture, etc.

Two examples are:

  • The Pyrenees Mountains, separating France and Spain.
  • The Alps, separating France and Italy.

Types of borders – Geography

We can distinguish three types of borders in Geography:

  1. Defined: borders that are established by a legal document.
  2. Delimited: borders that are drawn on a map. These may not be physically visual in the real world.
  3. Demarcated: borders that are identified by physical objects such as fences. These types of borders don't usually show up on maps.

Political boundaries

As mentioned earlier, political boundaries are also known as borders. Political boundaries are characterised by an imaginary line, which separates countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, and towns. Sometimes, political boundaries can also separate cultures, languages, ethnicities, and cultural resources.

Sometimes, political boundaries can be a natural geographic feature, such as a river. Often, political boundaries are classified by whether or not they follow distinct physical features.

Political boundaries are not static, and they are always subject to change.

Political boundaries characteristics

While many political boundaries have checkpoints and border control where people and/or goods crossing a border are inspected, sometimes these boundaries are only visible on a map and not visible to the naked eye. Two examples are:

  1. In Europe/the EU, there are open borders, meaning that people and goods can cross freely without being checked.
  2. Political boundaries are present between the different states in the US. These boundaries are not visible when crossing into another state. This is very similar to the open borders of the EU.

Political boundaries occur on different scales:

  • Global: boundaries between nation-states.
  • Local: boundaries between towns, voting districts, and other municipally-based divisions.
  • International: these are above the nation-states, and they are becoming more and more important as international human rights take on a more visible role on a global scale. Such boundaries can include those between organisations that provide certain security measures and countries that are not part of a group and therefore not protected by their resources.

No matter at which scale the political boundary is, they demarcate political control, determine the distribution of resources, demarcate areas of military control, divide economic markets, and create areas of legal rule.

Demarcate = 1. delimit, showing the limits of something.2. to set apart, distinguish.

Political boundary classification

Political boundaries can be classified as:

  • Relic: this no longer functions as a border but is merely a reminder of a space that was once divided. Examples are the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China.
  • Superimposed: this is a border forced upon a landscape by an outside power, ignoring local cultures. Examples are the Europeans who divided Africa and who imposed boundaries on the Indigenous communities in the US and Australia.
  • Subsequent: this will evolve as the cultural landscape takes shape and it develops because of settlement patterns. The borders are formed based on religious, ethnic, linguistic, and economic differences. An example is the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, reflecting the differences in religion between the two countries.
  • Antecedent: this is a border that existed before human cultures developed into their current forms. They are usually physical borders. An example is the border between the US and Canada.
  • Geometric: this border is created by using lines of latitude and longitude and their associated arcs. It is a straight line that serves as a political border, and it is unrelated to physical and/or cultural differences. An example is the border between the US and Canada, which is a straight border (east to west) and it avoids dividing islands.
  • Consequent: a border line that coincides with a cultural divide such as religion or language. Examples are Mormon communities in the US, which have a boundary with the non-Mormon communities around them.
  • Militarised: these borders are guarded and usually very difficult to cross. An example is North Korea.
  • Open: borders that can be crossed freely. An example is the European Union.

Political boundaries – issues

Political boundaries can be disputed between countries, especially when there are natural resources that both groups want. Disputes can also happen when determining the boundary locations, how those boundaries are interpreted, and who should control the areas within the boundary.

International political boundaries are often the site of attempts to forcibly change or ignore political boundaries. The consent between the relevant nations that is needed to change international political borders is not always respected, making political boundaries frequent sites of conflict.

Political boundaries can also cause issues when they divide or combine ethnic groups as they can be either forced apart or merged. It can also raise problems surrounding immigrant and refugee flow, as the regulations and restrictions over admitting or excluding an individual from a particular nation can place a country's political boundary at the centre of the debate.

Types of boundaries - human geography

Apart from political boundaries, other boundaries and borders in human geography should be mentioned. However, these boundaries are not as distinctly defined as political and natural boundaries.

Linguistic boundaries

These are formed between areas where people speak different languages. Often, these boundaries coincide with political boundaries. For example, in France, the predominant language is French; in Germany, which has a political border with France, the principal language is German.

It is also possible to have linguistic boundaries in one country. An example of this is India, which has 122 languages. 22 are recognised by the government as 'official languages'. In general, the people who speak these languages are split into different geographic regions.

Economic boundaries

Economic boundaries exist between people of differing levels of income and/or wealth. Sometimes these can fall on national borders. An example is the boundary between the developed US and underdeveloped Mexico.

In some cases, economic boundaries can happen within one country and sometimes even in one city. An example of the latter is New York City, where you have the wealthy Upper West Side in Manhattan and its neighbour, the low-income neighbourhood of the Bronx.

Natural resources play a role in economic boundaries, with people setting in areas rich in natural resources such as oil or fertile soil. These people tend to become wealthier than those living in areas without or with fewer natural resources.

Social boundaries

Social boundaries exist when differences in social circumstances and/or social capital results in unequal access to resources and opportunities. These boundary issues include race, gender/sex, and religion:

  • Race: sometimes, people can be voluntary or forcibly segregated into different neighbourhoods. For example, political leaders in Bahrein have planned to forcibly move the country's Southeast Asian population to parts of the country where they can be segregated from ethnic Bahrainis. Considering that most of the Southeast Asian population living in Bahrein are immigrant labourers, this is also an economic boundary.
  • Gender/sex: this is when there is a difference between the rights between males and females. An example is Saudi Arabia. All women must have a male guardian who approves a woman's right to travel, seek healthcare, manage personal finances, marry, or divorce.
  • Religion: This can happen when there are different religions within their boundaries. An example is the nation of Sudan. Northern Sudan is primarily Muslim, Southwestern Sudan is predominantly Christian, and South-eastern Sudan follows animism more than the other Christianity or Islam.

Animism = the religious belief that there are spirits throughout nature

Landscape borders

A landscape border is a mixture of a political border and a natural border. While landscape borders, like natural boundaries, can be forests, water bodies or mountains, landscape borders are artificial instead of natural.

The creation of a landscape border is usually motivated by demarcating treaty-designed political boundaries. It goes against nature due to the modification of natural geography. An example is China's Song Dynasty which, in the 11th century, built an extensive defensive forest on its northern border to hinder the nomadic Khitan people.

Lines of Control (LoC)

A line of control (LoC) is a militarised buffer border between two or more nations that don't have permanent borders yet. These borders are often under military control and they are not officially recognised as an international border. In most cases, an LoC results from war, military impasse, and/or unresolved land ownership conflict. Another term for LoC is a cease-fire line.

Airspace borders

Airspace is an area within the Earth's atmosphere above a specific country or territory controlled by that country.

The horizontal borders are determined under international law as 12 nautical miles out from the coastline of a nation. As for vertical borders, there are no international rules on how far an airspace border goes up into outer space. There is, however, a general agreement called the Kármán line, which is a peak point at an altitude of 62mi (100km) above the Earth's surface. This sets a boundary between the airspace in the atmosphere and outer space.

Types of Borders - Key takeaways

  • Borders are geographic boundaries that can be divided into physical borders and political borders. It can be a real or artificial line that separates geographic areas.
  • Borders are, by definition, political boundaries, and they separate countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, and towns.
  • A boundary is the outer edge of a region or area of land. It shows where one area/region ends, and another begins. This is a line, either real or imaginary, that separates geographical regions of the Earth.
  • Natural boundaries are a recognisable geographic features, such as mountains, rivers or deserts. The different types are:- Frontiers.- Rivers and lakes.- Maritime borders/oceans.- Mountains.- Tectonic plates.
  • There are 3 types of borders:1. Defined.2. Delimited.3. Demarcated.
  • Political boundaries can occur on three different levels:1. Global.2. Local.3. International.
  • The different types of boundaries and borders in human geography are:- Linguistic boundaries.- Economic boundaries.- Social boundaries.- Landscape borders.- Lines of Control (LoC).- Airspace borders.

Types of Borders

These are what we call political boundaries, which are imaginary lines that separate countries, states, provinces, counties, cities and towns. Sometimes these political borders can be a natural geographic features

  • Frontiers
  • Rivers and lakes
  • Maritime borders/Oceans
  • Tectonic plates
  • Mountains

  • Linguistic boundaries
  • Social boundaries
  • Economic boundaries

  • Natural boundaries
  • Political boundaries
  • Linguistic boundaries
  • Economic boundaries
  • Social boundaries
  • Landscape borders
  • Lines of Control (LoC)
  • Airspace borders

  1. Defined: borders that are established by a legal document
  2. Delimited: borders that are drawn on a map. These may not be physically visual in the real world
  3. Demarcated: borders that are identified by physical objects such as fences. These types of borders don't usually show up on maps

Final Types of Borders Quiz

Question

What is the definition of a border?

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Answer

Borders are geographic boundaries which can be divided into physical borders as well as political borders. It can be a real or artificial line that separates geographic areas.

 

Borders are, by definition, political boundaries, and they separate countries, states, provinces, counties, cities and towns. 

Show question

Question

What are boundaries?

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Answer

A boundary is the outer edge of a region or area of land. It shows where 1 area/region ends and another begins. This is a line, either real or imaginary, that separates geographical areas of the Earth.

Show question

Question

Name 2 examples of political boundaries that are formed along physical boundaries.


Show answer

Answer

  1. The boundary between France and Spain. This follows the crest of the Pyrenees mountains
  2. The boundary between the US and Mexico. This follows the Rio Grande river

Show question

Question

What are the 5 types of natural boundaries?


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Answer

  1. Frontiers
  2. Rivers and lakes
  3. Maritime borders/Oceans
  4. Tectonic plates
  5. Mountains

Show question

Question

What are natural boundaries?

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Answer

Natural boundaries are a recognisable geographic features, such as mountains, rivers or deserts. These natural boundaries are a logical choice for a boundary as they are visible and they tend to interfere with human movement and interaction 

Show question

Question

What is a frontier?

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Answer

Frontiers are vast unsettled or underpopulated areas that separate and protect countries from each other, and they often function as natural boundaries. Frontiers can be deserts, marshes, frigid lands, oceans, forests, and/or mountains. 

Show question

Question

What is an example of a country that developed while surrounded by frontiers?

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Answer

Chile

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Question

What are 3 examples of waterway boundaries?

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Answer

  1. Strait of Gibraltar: a narrow waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is the boundary between southwestern Europe and north-western Africa

  2. The Rio Grande: forming the boundary between the US and Mexico

  3. The Mississippi River: a defining boundary between many of the states that it flows through, such as Louisiana and Mississippi

Show question

Question

What 3 agreements were recorded in the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea?

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Answer

  1. Territorial sea
  2. Contiguous zone
  3. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

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Question

What are the 3 types of boundaries with tectonic plates?

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Answer

  1. Divergent boundary
  2. Convergent boundary
  3. Transform body

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Question

Name 2 examples of mountain boundaries.

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Answer

  1. The Pyrenees Mountains, separating France and Spain
  2. The Alps, separating France and Italy

Show question

Question

In geography, which 3 types of borders can be distinguished?

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Answer

  1. Defined
  2. Delimited
  3. Demarcated

Show question

Question

What is the meaning of a political boundary?

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Answer

Political boundaries are characterised by an imaginary line, which separate countries, states, provinces, counties, cities and towns. Sometimes, political boundaries can also separate cultures, languages, ethnicities and cultural resources.


Sometimes, political boundaries can be a natural geographic feature such as a river. Often, political boundaries are classified by whether or not they follow distinct physical features.

Show question

Question

Political boundaries occur on different scales. What are those scales?

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Answer

  1. Global
  2. Local
  3. International

Show question

Question

Political boundaries has 8 classifications. What are they?

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Answer

  1. Relic
  2. Superimposed
  3. Subsequent
  4. Antecedent
  5. Geometric
  6. Consequent
  7. Militarised
  8. Open

Show question

Question

What are the 3 types of boundaries in human geography?

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Answer

  1. Linguistic boundaries
  2. Economic boundaries
  3. Social boundaries

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Question

What are the 3 types of borders in human geography?

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Answer

  1. Landscape borders
  2. Lines of Control (LoC)
  3. Airspace borders

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Question

Name 3 boundary issues that can occur within Social boundaries

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Answer

  1. Race
  2. Gender/sex
  3. Religion

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Question

What is a linguistic boundary? Name an example.

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Answer

These are formed between areas where people speak different languages. Often, these boundaries coincide with political boundaries.


A simple example is: In France, the predominant language is French, in Germany, that has a political border with France, the predominant language is German. 

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Question

What is the definition of a demarcated border?

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Answer

borders that are identified by physical objects such as fences. These types of borders don't usually show up on maps 

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