Geographia Polonica (2003) vol. 76, iss. 2

Geomorphology, engineering and planning

Denys Brunsden

Geographia Polonica (2003) vol. 76, iss. 2, pp. 185-202 | Full text


The paper discusses ways in which geomorphology might be used by engineers and planners. They have always appreciated that a project should be based on a clear understanding of the geomorphology of the site of the proposed works. In many countries, following the lead given by Poland, it is now standard practice to take full account of the morphology and processes of the landscape during an investigation. However, many investigation teams tend to restrict the work to ba-sic mapping and identification of features rather than a true understanding of the site in space and time. Not enough attention is paid to the residual effects of earlier landform change, the identification of inherited trends of change or the residual material conditions. Many projects do not have a long eno-ugh time scale to determine the frequency and magnitude of processes and the nature of risk even over the short design life of the project. Such deficiencies in practice are discussed and ways of impro-ving the service are identified. Future work should be based on a full understanding of the conceptual basis for modern geomorphology. In the last thirty years there has been a revolution in the theoretical basis of the subject as well as a remarkable improvement in the technical capability. It is suggested that this should form a new conceptual basis for application to engineering and planning. Now that it is possible to discover fundamental information on how natural systems work it is negligent to carry out development or management of the surface of the Earth without basing the schemes on sound and available knowledge. It is the only home we have.

Keywords: applied geomorphology, engineering geomorphology, event frequency and ma-gnitude, geomorphological concepts, human well-being, inheritance, planning, risk, systems

Denys Brunsden, Department of Geography, King's College, London, WC2R 2LS, UK