Natural environments are a major influence on where humans live, socialize, harvest resources and travel. The most influential aspects of a natural environment include climate, landforms, soil characteristics and proximity to water. Another important factor is the presence or suspected presence of natural resources such as metals, fossil fuels and gemstones.
The potential dangers of a natural environment also affect human actions. For example, individuals living in the portion of the central United States nicknamed "tornado alley" know their safety depends on tornado shelters, evacuation plans and tornado siren systems. According to the City of Oklahoma City website, proper tornado preparation saves many lives annually.
Volcanic eruptions, landslides and earthquakes are also potentially dangerous factors in the natural environment. The size and volatility of a volcano determine the minimum safe distance for human settlements. About.com expert Andrew Alden explains that skyscrapers in earthquake zones are designed to move with the ground, which decreases property damage and the risk of human injury.
Soil is an important aspect of the natural environment because it determines what plants thrive in a given location. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, insect diversity has a huge impact on soil characteristics and arability. This, in turn, determines what wildlife species live in the area. For example, plants that thrive in hot, dry, sandy desert soil do not survive in swampy environments. Crops such as rice and cranberries, however, do not grow without boggy, waterlogged growing conditions.