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01.01.2014 | Ausgabe 1/2014

Environmental Management 1/2014

Feedbacks in Human–Landscape Systems

Zeitschrift:
Environmental Management > Ausgabe 1/2014
Autoren:
Anne Chin, Joan L. Florsheim, Ellen Wohl, Brian D. Collins

Abstract

This article identifies key questions and challenges for geomorphologists in investigating coupled feedbacks in human–landscape systems. While feedbacks occur in the absence of human influences, they are also altered by human activity. Feedbacks are a key element to understanding human-influenced geomorphic systems in ways that extend our traditional approach of considering humans as unidirectional drivers of change. Feedbacks have been increasingly identified in Earth-environmental systems, with studies of coupled human–natural systems emphasizing ecological phenomena in producing emerging concepts for social–ecological systems. Enormous gaps or uncertainties in knowledge remain with respect to understanding impact-feedback loops within geomorphic systems with significant human alterations, where the impacted geomorphic systems in turn affect humans. Geomorphology should play an important role in public policy by identifying the many diffuse and subtle feedbacks of both local- and global-scale processes. This role is urgent, while time may still be available to mitigate the impacts that limit the sustainability of human societies. Challenges for geomorphology include identification of the often weak feedbacks that occur over varied time and space scales ranging from geologic time to single isolated events and very short time periods, the lack of available data linking impact with response, the identification of multiple thresholds that trigger feedback mechanisms, the varied tools and metrics needed to represent both physical and human processes, and the need to collaborate with social scientists with expertise in the human causes of geomorphic change, as well as the human responses to such change.

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