Past Working Groups: Geomorphology and ESS

Petuniabukta © Zb.Zwolinski

WG Chair:

Prof. Lothar Schrott

Salzburg (Austria)

Objectives of the IAG Working Group on Geomorphology and Earth System Science

The principal objectives of the Working Group on Geomorphology and Earth System Science (GESS) of the International Association of Geomorphologists will be to define, promote, and enhance the role of Geomorphology within Earth System Science.These objectives derive from the following observations:

  1. Geomorphology deals with the dynamics of Earth’s land surface at the interface of the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.
    Question: How can we raise awareness within the geomorphological community of this crucial position?
  2. Geomorphology is one amongst many disciplines within Earth System Science.
    Question: How can we link Geomorphology to other Earth System Science disciplines efficiently, and how can we contribute to a better integration of these disciplines?
  3. Much geomorphological work is on small to medium spatial scales whereas mainstream ESS works on a global scale.
    Question: How can the scale gap between Geomorphology and ESS be bridged?
  4. Geomorphology documents and exploits valuable records that can be used to extend knowledge of earth surface processes to larger spatial and temporal scales than can be covered by direct observation.
    Question: How can we make even more efficient use of these records, and how can we optimize their effect on other disciplines within the ESS?
  5. Earth System Science helps to enhance understanding of the dynamics of Earth’s land surface.
    Question: Which activities and findings by other disciplines in Earth System Science have major scientific consequences for Geomorphology, and how can we raise awareness of these activities and findings?
  6. The methods, tools and paradigms of Geomorphology differ from those of other Earth System Science disciplines.
    Question: How can these cultural differences be exploited and abridged?
  7. Modelling efforts are central to Earth System Science.
    Question: How can geomorpological modelling be optimized to dovetail with ESS modelling?

In order to achieve our objectives and answer the questions raised above, a series of activities are necessary within the next four years. These include:

  • Kick-off meeting
    First, we need rather soon (within the next three month, possibly after the summer break) a Kick-off meeting of the GESS working group in order to discuss and refine our objectives, and to develop a four year programme. The first Kick off meeting (1day) will take place in Bonn or Cambridge probably during the last week in Oct. or the first week in Nov. This programme might include any or all of the following:
  • Workshops and Meetings
    A series of workshops will be used to explore the interface of Geomorphology with each of the other core disciplines of Earth System Science. It is anticipated that a core group of geomorphologists will meet with selected representatives of another discipline to discuss overlap between their fields. The aim of each workshop will be to draft a short white paper outlining this overlap and strategies to enhance interactions.
    At this end of this cycle, a Geomorphology and Earth Systems Science meeting will bring together participants of all previous workshops to review the state of the art, and to look ahead to future interactions. This meeting should focus on the role of Geomorphology in ESS. In addition we should take part in initiatives of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).
  • Scientific publications (newsletter, stand alone book, special issue, etc.)
    There is certainly the need of having a key paper summarizing the conceptual framework and main objectives of this GESS WG in an early stage. Subsequently a number of well-positioned publications (e.g. IGBP newsletter) are necessary addressing the above mentioned and upcoming questions. Publications could be timed in concert with workshops.
  • Strategic measures and finance (e.g. linking ESS programmes with IAG initiatives)
    A relatively small working group within the IAG will not have much influence without good links to leading organizations and programmes. Based on the network of our members links will be established with other professional organizations with involvement in ESS, and a presence will be created in relevant meetings and programmes (e.g. Earth System Science Partnership ESSP). The finance of the WG is another crucial issue (IAG support for working groups is currently 500€ per annum!). We need to look for alternative funding.
  • New programmes and research projects
    Results from these efforts should propagate into new programmes and transdisciplinary research projects with a strong support from IAG and other related scientific organisations.


Nick Clifford School of Geography, University of Nottingham, U.K.
Simon Dadson Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, U.K.
Richard Dikau Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Germany
Niels Hovius Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, U.K.
Nick Preston Institute of Geography, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Timothy Quine University of Exeter, School of Geography, Archeology and Earth Resources, U.K.
Keith Richards Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Prof. Lothar Schrott, e-mail, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg, Austria
WG Chair
Dr. Jan-Christoph Otto, e-mail, Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Germany
WG Secretary