Much geomorphological research has potential to be applied but this paper examines the extent and nature of actual applications to environmental management. It reviews how this work has expanded and changed and reflects on the stimuli, types of involvement, and attitudes. These aspects, and how geomorphology can be applied effectively, are exemplified by developments in coastal and river management in the UK, highlighting the contributions made by geomorphology to sustainable strategies. Applied geomorphology has been recognised as a topic and component within geomorphology throughout the last 50 yr, contributing about 10% of published research papers in the subject. Major increase in direct involvement with environmental policy and practice came in the 1980s and 1990s but it has been followed by enormous expansion since then, including employment of professional geomorphologists in all stages and scales of projects, from provision of specific solutions, to design and initiation of projects, through to national policy development. Major stimuli to this increase in application encompassed the evident failure and detrimental effects of earlier approaches using hard engineering, changes in environmental awareness and attitudes of the public, and increased threat of climate change and incidence of major storms and natural disasters. These led to developments in approaches that ‘work with nature’, implementation of demonstration projects in river restoration, managed coastal retreat and now Natural Flood Management, and the explicit need for geomorphological assessment of water bodies following EU legislation. These have contributed to produce the present situation where applied geomorphology is ‘booming’, with high demand for geomorphologists. Evidence is provided that geomorphologists have contributed significantly to this change in thinking and are now very actively involved in developing and applying means of using their understanding and skills to implement more sustainable management, to the benefit of the environment and society.
Thursday, October 24, 2019