Border - Natural Borders

Natural Borders

Natural borders are geographical features that present natural obstacles to communication and transport. Existing political borders are often a formalization of these historical, natural obstacles.

Some geographical features that often constitute natural borders are:

  • Oceans: oceans create very costly natural borders. Very few nation states span more than one continent. Only very large and resource-rich states are able to sustain the costs of governance across oceans for longer periods of time.
  • Rivers: some political borders have been formalized along natural borders formed by rivers. Some examples are; the Rio Grande border (Mexico-USA), the Rhine border (France-Germany), and the Mekong border (Thailand-Laos)
  • Lakes: larger lakes create natural borders. One example is the natural border created by Lake Tanganyika (Congo-Burundi-Tanzania-Zambia)
  • Forests: denser jungles or forests can create strong natural borders. One example of a natural forest border is the Amazon rain forest (Colombia-Venezuela-Guyana-Brazil-Bolivia-Peru)
  • Mountain ranges: research on borders suggests that mountains have especially strong effects as natural borders. Many nations in Europe and Asia have had their political borders defined along mountain ranges.

Throughout history, technological advances have reduced the costs of transport and communication across these natural borders. This has reduced the significance of natural borders over time. As a result, political borders that have been formalized more recently — such as those in Africa or Americas — typically conform less to natural borders than very old borders — such as those in Europe or Asia — do. States whose borders conform to natural borders are, for similar reasons, more likely to be strong nation-states.

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