In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Applied Geography

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Impacting, Shaping, and Assessing Public Policy
  • Cluster-Based Economic Development
  • Understanding the Spread of Disease
  • Spatial Mismatch and Accessibility
  • Facility Location Optimization
  • Reducing Crime
  • Societal Adaptation to Climate Change
  • Measuring Land-Use Cover Change
  • Collaborative Environmental Planning
  • Tourism as a Local Economic Development Strategy

Geography Applied Geography
Neil Reid
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0047


Applied Geography has been defined by Michael Pacione in 1999 as being “concerned with the application of geographical knowledge and skills to the resolution of real-world social, economic and environmental problems.” The research highlighted in this article tries to document some of the ways in which geographers have used their knowledge and skills to contribute to a resolution of a variety of societal problems. Recognizing the fuzziness and ambiguity surrounding the boundaries of academic disciplines the research reported on here also contains work by non-geographers. Similarly, when published, the work of applied geographers is not restricted to appearing in just geography journals. There is a considerable amount of applied geographers’ research that is published in journals that would be considered as being outside of the discipline. In choosing the topics to be covered an attempt has been made to be specific rather than general. For example, rather than reporting on “economic development” as a broad field, the focus is on one particular approach to economic development, namely “cluster-based economic development.” Similarly, rather than reporting on work being done on “climate change” there is a specific focus on work being done on “societal adaptation to climate change.”

General Overviews

The works contained in this overview exhibit the scope and breadth of applied geography. Applied geographers are making important contributions in all the systematic branches of geography. These include both physical and human geography and at the interface between the two. The edited volumes Bailly and Gibson 2004, Pacione 1999b, and Stimson and Haynes 2012 are testimony to the diversity of issues and topics being addressed. Applied geographers are also doing important applied work outside of traditional bastions of geography (the United Kingdom and the United States). Thus applied geographic research is being done in countries as diverse as Australia, Estonia, Portugal, and Pakistan. Applied geographers, due to the fact that they are trying to bring a “resolution” to problems, make use of a variety of geographic tools. These include remote sensing, geographic information systems, and statistical analysis. It was perhaps fitting that when the Association of American Geographers decided to produce a volume to celebrate 100 years of its existence, the decision was made to produce one that dealt with “problems” and to ask a variety of the discipline’s best researchers to discuss these “problems” from the perspective of a geographer. These “problems” are the focus of Janelle, et al. 2004. Problems, by definition, are there to be solved and whether that “problem” is finding the best location for a retail outlet, understanding the activity space of criminals, predicting the geographic diffusion of a potentially deadly virus, or identifying a more effective adaptation mechanism in response to climate change, applied geographers have an important contribution to make. Applied geography has not been without its critics and detractors, however, as Pacione 1999a discusses.

  • Bailly, Antoine, and Lay James Gibson, eds. Applied Geography: A World Perspective. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-2442-9

    This volume covers three broad areas of applied geography: history and epistemological foundations, perspectives in applied geography from different parts of the world, and case studies in applied geography. Specific chapters deal with a variety of topics, including historical foundations of applied geography and the rise of policy analysis.

  • Janelle, Donald G., Barney Warf, and Kathy Hansen, eds. WorldMinds: Geographical Perspectives on 100 Problems. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-2352-1

    This book was commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Association of American Geographers. The book is divided into ten sections that cover topics such as addressing human needs in health and education, enhancing life in cities, integrating local and global economies, and maintaining health ecosystems.

  • Pacione, Michael. “Applied Geography: In Pursuit of Useful Knowledge.” Applied Geography 19.1 (1999a): 1–12.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0143-6228(98)00031-9

    In this paper the author addresses some of the critiques that applied geography has faced from both Marxists and post-modern theorists. The paper discusses useful knowledge, the relationship between pure and applied research, the value of applied geography, values in applied geography, doing applied geography, and prospects for applied geography.

  • Pacione, Michael, ed. Applied Geography: Principles and Practice. London: Routledge, 1999b.

    This edited volume contains thirty chapters that cover three broad areas of applied geography: natural and environmental hazards, environmental change and management, and challenges of the human environment. Specific topics covered within these include global warming, earthquakes, vulcanism, landscape evaluation, wetlands conservation, urbanization and counter urbanization, and poverty and deprivation.

  • Stimson, Robert, and Kingsley E. Haynes, eds. Studies in Applied Geography and Spatial Analysis: Addressing Real World Issues. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2012.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781781007969

    This twenty-chapter volume covers a wide range of topics in applied geography. Topics include transport policy in Pakistan, using geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial modeling to support school network planning in Estonia, and the implications of urban growth for emergency services provision in Brisbane, Australia.

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