Geography primarily influences cultural development by creating distinct culture regions, which exist as areas of land containing distinct physical characteristics and resources, separating it from surrounding regions. Areas differing in topography and terrain influence lifestyle and economy; flatland areas with fertile soil, for instance, support agriculture, while regions near the coast support fishing and maritime activities.
The prevalence or scarcity of resources in a given area affects the actions of local populations. Citizens living in dry and arid desert regions, for instance, consider water and fertile soil a scarce resource. Their consumption and management of those resources differs considerably from populations in regions of abundant water.
Sometimes, unique landforms and topography, such as tall mountains and plateaus, physically isolate populations. People contained in a physically isolated region retain certain cultural traits and characteristics. That isolation limits movement of people and ideas into and out of those regions, in turn giving rise to distinct cultures and traditions. Inhabitants develop their own languages, religions and social norms. These distinct areas, called culture regions, exist in rural and urban settings. Cities develop distinct areas of ethnic groups and socioeconomic status, while rural areas feature distinction based on physical landscapes.
Some geographers and social scientists consider geography a unifying force, creating commonalities among people in certain regions, while others consider geography divisive, separating people and ideas.