Decades of change: contributions of geomorphology to fluvial and coastal engineering and management

J. Hooke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Major developments in the contribution of geomorphology to engineering and environmental management have taken place over the past ten years in the United Kingdom, particularly in the coastal and fluvial spheres. Considerable achievements have been gained in raising awareness of the nature of geomorphic processes and their dynamics, and of how the understanding of geomorphology can aid effective management and decisions on engineering strategies. Specifically, this has meant gaining an understanding of interconnectedness in geomorphic systems and the long-term variability of processes and landforms. Radical changes in both policies and decision-making frameworks have taken place such that the approach to coastal and river management adopted by the British Government is now to ‘work with nature’. Likewise, management structures have been implemented to facilitate and encourage integrated planning. Such changes have not, of course, occurred from the influence of geomorphologists alone, but they do align policy much more with geomorphological principles than in the past. Examples are presented of geomorphological involvement in coastalengineering in Britain. Engineeringgeomorphology is now in a second phase of answering geomorphological questions, providing geomorphological information, and implementing management in accordance with the principles advocated. This is involving much case-study work at specific locations. A third phase of major development in the future is envisaged in this paper, mainly stemming from major changes in geomorphology itself and underlain by radical alterations of scientific theories, philosophy, and methods. This will involve modelling and predicting responses in ways that adequately deal with complexity, positive feedback, non-linearity, and holism. Questions remain, with regard to the links between geomorphology and engineering, about the type of predictions that are possible and acceptable, and about the extent to which geomorphology will provide solutions, both nationally and internationally. Whatever strategies or solutions are suggested, there remains the issue of political acceptability in specific applications and the need for mechanisms to make public gain compatible with private loss. Geomorphologists arguably have the potential for another major leap forward, stimulated by theoretical and technological developments, in which the results of research will feed directly into environmental engineering, provided that the requisite spatial and temporal data are available.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)373-389
    Number of pages17
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


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