How are the fjords formed? Why do they constitute some of the most picturesque areas of the world?

The question "How are the fjords formed? Why do they constitute some of the most picturesque areas of the world?" was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1. Let us look at the model answer to this question.

Answer: A fjord is a long, narrow valley with steep sides filled with seawater. These are geomorphic features developed at or near the coast where marine waters enter inland through over-steeped glacial valleys with high-walled rocks. They are found mainly in Norway, Greenland, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Formation of Fjords

  • A fjord is created where glaciers cut into a previously created river valley (often V-shaped) or a glacier-shaped valley (usually U-shaped).
  • Many such valleys were formed by ice age glaciers when the sea level was significantly lower than today because large amounts of water were tied up in the large ice masses on land.
  • Towards the end of each ice age, the climate warmed and the glaciers melted back.
  • When the glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age, the sea level rose considerably. This caused the valleys to fill with water and create fjords.

Factors that Contribute to Fjords' Picturesque Nature

  • Stunning Scenery: Fjords are hidden gems that offer visitors serene scenery and landscapes.
    • For example: The UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord of Norway, is characterised by towering cliffs carpeted with vegetation and features several waterfalls.
  • Reflection of light: The interplay of light and shadow across the tranquil waters creates an enchanting atmosphere.
  • Biodiversity: The fjords are in a rich biodiverse region with large flora and fauna, thus increasing their beauty.
    • For example: The Chilean fjords contain diverse benthic ecosystems of corals and other invertebrates.
  • Support Wildlife: Fjords provide a habitat for thousands of nesting seabirds and smaller marine mammals such as sea otters, harbour seals, and sea lions.
  • Adventurous activities: Howe Sound is North America’s Fjord which offers a playground for sailing, fishing, diving, camping, and a host of other recreational activities.
  • Little change in landscape: More specifically, fjords are most often remote and unspoiled which means that the landscape has changed very little since the very first people settled in these areas.

Fjords are places of amazing beauty and access to land and sea for humans and animals. They are economically and socially important for aquaculture, tourism, recreational fisheries, transportation, and coastal development. They are also experiencing many changes due to climate and human influence. In order to maintain healthy and productive fjord ecosystems, there needs to be a better understanding of changes to fjord ecosystems at the global level and more interactions between different relevant stakeholder groups.

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