Can We Link Cause and Effect in Landscape Evolution?

Thomas J. Coulthard, Marco J. Van De Wiel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we argue that there are fundamental limitations on geomorphological models, which may prevent linking cause and effect. These limitations are not governed by technology, model complexity, or monitoring resolution, but are inherent in the dynamics of landscape evolution itself. This is because process thresholds, interactions and feedbacks, as well as time lags in responding to the external forcing, mean that geomorphological response in the landscape can be non-linear. This can obscure the relation between the forcing signal and the response signal to the extent that it may not be possible to link cause to effect, or vice-versa.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGravel-Bed Rivers: Processes, Tools, Environments
EditorsMichael Church, Pascale Biron, Andre Roy
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780470688908
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Model
  • Non-linear
  • Sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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