Geography Biogeomorphology and Zoogeomorphology
by
David R. Butler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 16 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0061

Introduction

Biogeomorphology and zoogeomorphology are subfields of the discipline of geomorphology, the study of landforms and land-forming processes. Biogeomorphology encompasses the study of the effects of plants and animals on the landscape, as well as how geomorphic processes (e.g., running water, glacial ice, wind, wave action, landslides and mass movements) affect the distribution of plants and animals. Zoogeomorphology is a subfield of biogeomorphology that specifically focuses on the study of the geomorphic effects of animals. “Phytogeomorphology” is a term sometimes used for the study of the interaction of geomorphic processes and plants. The term “ecogeomorphology” is frequently used as a synonym for “biogeomorphology.” Scientists who study biogeomorphology and zoogeomorphology come from both the disciplines of geomorphology as well as from ecology. In ecology, the term “ecosystem engineering” has emerged since around 1990 to indicate the effects that both animals and plants may have in shaping the landscapes in which they live. Biogeomorphology emerged in the late 1980s as a significant subfield of geomorphology; prior to that time, although a few studies and general observations concerning the interactions of plants or animals and geomorphic processes had been recorded, the field of geomorphology was primarily focused on conceptual models of how entire broad regions achieved the appearance they presented over time. With the increasing focus of geomorphologists on finer-scale studies and measurements of surface processes after about the 1970s, biogeomorphology began to be seen as an important subdiscipline for the measurement and understanding of surface processes. Most of the studies of biogeomorphology that were initiated in the 1980s focused on the interaction of surface processes with vegetation. Zoogeomorphology was slower to develop, and was not even formally defined as a subfield of biogeomorphology until 1992. Zoogeomorphology remains a minority subcomponent of biogeomorphology today, although it is the focus of research for an increasing number of geomorphologists around the world.

General Overviews

Biogeomorphology did not comprise a significant component of research in geomorphology before the late 1970s and 1980s. Nonetheless, Charles Darwin’s final published work (Darwin 1881) examined the role of earthworms in mixing and enriching soils, as well as examining microfeatures created by worms, including worm casts and tunnels. A general geomorphology text, Lobeck 1939, included a significant discussion of a variety of plant and animal topics as they relate to geomorphology, including log jams, beavers, earthworms, and ants and termites. This book included photographic examples of several features, such as beaver dams, ant and termite mounds, and log jams impounding lakes. After Lobeck’s book, however, a dearth of material in major geomorphology textbooks characterized the next several decades, as revealed in a content analysis of geomorphology textbooks in Stine and Butler 2011. Viles 1988, an edited volume, defined biogeomorphology as a “new term designed to encapsulate concisely the concept of an approach to geomorphology which explicitly considers the role of organisms” (p. 1). That volume was largely focused on the role of plants, although a chapter specifically examined the geomorphological role of termites and earthworms in the tropics, and the role of beavers, grizzly bears, and ground squirrels was briefly summarized in a chapter examining periglacial and alpine environments. A few years later, John Thornes followed up with an edited volume on vegetation and erosion (Thornes 1990). Stallins 2006 referred to biogeomorphology as the “ecology of erosion,” which, while somewhat limiting the discipline in its scope by completely omitting aspects of transportation and deposition, was nonetheless intriguing. Zoogeomorphology was first defined by Butler 1992 as the field of study that explicitly examines animals as geomorphic agents. Butler 1995 expanded on the concepts of zoogeomorphology and is the only book up to 2012 exclusively focused on the geomorphic impacts of animals ranging from invertebrates to ectothermic vertebrates (including fish, amphibians, and reptiles) to birds and mammals, and with a chapter specifically devoted to the geomorphic impacts of beavers. More recently, several special issues of the international journal Geomorphology (cited under Journals) have been devoted to a variety of aspects of biogeomorphology, including Hupp 1995 (cited under Biogeomorphology), which is largely focused on vegetation, with only three of twenty-one papers focusing on the geomorphic impacts of animals; Hession, et al. 2010 (cited under Biogeomorphology) on geomorphology and vegetation; Wheaton, et al. 2011 (cited under Biogeomorphology) on multiscale feedbacks in ecogeomorphology; and Butler and Sawyer 2012 (cited under Zoogeomorphology) on zoogeomorphology and ecosystem engineering.

  • Butler, David R. “The Grizzly Bear as an Erosional Agent in Mountainous Terrain.” Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie 36 (1992): 179–189.

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    The first published definition of the term zoogeomorphology, in an examination of the ways grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, Montana, erode, transport, and deposit sediment. Through digging for food and excavation of winter hibernation dens, each adult bear annually moves nearly 7 cubic meters of sediment.

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    • Butler, David R. Zoogeomorphology: Animals as Geomorphic Agents. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The first and only book to date exclusively focused on the geomorphic impacts of animals. Examines the impacts of geophagy and lithophagy, trampling and wallowing behavior, mound building, food caching, digging for food, burrowing and denning, and the geomorphic effects of beavers. Extensive bibliography covering period prior to 1995.

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      • Darwin, Charles. The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits. London: John Murray, 1881.

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        The last published work of Charles Darwin examines the bioturbational effects of earthworms on soils in great detail, compiled over years of observation. Detailed sketch drawings of worm casts and micro-scale landform features created by earthworms. Can be considered the first major published work in the subsequently defined field of zoogeomorphology.

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        • Lobeck, Armin K. Geomorphology: An Introduction to the Study of Landscapes. New York: McGraw Hill, 1939.

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          One of the few general geomorphology textbooks of the period prior to the 1980s that gave any extensive coverage to the effects of animals (beavers, coral reefs, gophers) on the landscape, as well as the effects of log jams on fluvial systems. Excellent panchromatic photographs.

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          • Stallins, J. Anthony. “Geomorphology and Ecology: Unifying Themes for Complex Systems in Biogeomorphology.” Geomorphology 77 (2006): 207–216.

            DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.01.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Builds upon the theory of complexity in geomorphology to illustrate how “the ecology of erosion” can serve as a basis to integrate the fields of geomorphology and ecology. Examples primarily focus upon phytogeomorphology rather than zoogeomorphology, but nonetheless intriguing.

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            • Stine, Melanie B., and David R. Butler. “A Content Analysis of Biogeomorphology within Geomorphology Textbooks.” Geomorphology 125 (2011): 336–342.

              DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.09.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Analyzes the presence and content of biogeomorphology material within geomorphology textbooks covering the period 1939–2007. US and international books were examined. Results indicated minimal biogeomorphological material, primarily focused on coral reefs, the role of vegetation in inhibiting erosion, and burrowing animals.

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              • Thornes, John B., ed. Vegetation and Erosion: Processes and Environments. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 1990.

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                Twenty-nine chapters dedicated to the geomorphic influence of vegetative cover and its removal; authors from around the world include major biogeomorphologists Heather Viles, Cliff Hupp, Andrew Simon, Stanley Trimble, Mark Macklin, and many others. Thornes states in introductory chapter that vegetation is important in geomorphology because it controls the nature and rate of geomorphic processes.

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                • Viles, Heather A., ed. Biogeomorphology. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

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                  Viles aims to provide a synthesis in order to assess the knowledge base concerning the biological component of geomorphology, noting that the organic component has often been ignored by geomorphologists. Chapters by experts examine organic effects in temperate fluvial, tropical rainforest, arid and semiarid, periglacial, coastal, and karst environments.

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                  Journals

                  A number of international, peer-reviewed journals publish papers focusing on aspects of biogeomorphology and zoogeomorphology. Geomorphology leads the way in publishing special issues on topics in biogeomorphology, ecogeomorphology, geomorphology and ecosystems, and zoogeomorphology. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms also publishes a wide range of papers on topics in biogeomorphology and zoogeomorphology, with several recent important papers on the zoogeomorphic role of beavers in mountains of western North America. Physical Geography has published a number of special issues on topics including alpine treeline, riparian landscapes, and coastal environments, all with papers with a biogeomorphological focus. The journal Pedobiologia specializes in papers on soil biology, which provides a forum for a number of published works on the mixing and churning (bioturbational) effects of earthworms, ants, and termites. Progress in Physical Geography provides review papers, as well as original research papers, on topics of importance in the field, with numerous examples examining the biogeomorphology of ecotones, vegetation and erosion, and impacts of animals on the landscape. The interdisciplinary journal Catena focuses on geoecology and landscape evolution, offering occasional papers on ecotones including alpine treeline, bog meadows, and riparian environments, as well as on bioturbation, vegetation and erosion, and effects of climate change on biogeomorphological agents and processes.

                  • Catena.

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                    A peer-reviewed, international journal of soil science, hydrology, and geomorphology focusing on geoecology and landscape evolution. Integrative approach provides excellent setting for publication of papers on biogeomorphology of ecotones, biogeomorphology of soils, and plant/erosion interaction.

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                    • Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

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                      A peer-reviewed, international journal published for the British Society for Geomorphology, covering the entirety of the field of geomorphology. Publishes a variety of papers on topics in general biogeomorphology, phytogeomorphology, and zoogeomorphology.

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                      • Geomorphology.

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                        A peer-reviewed, international journal that publishes across the spectrum of topics in discipline of geomorphology. Publishes numerous papers with biogeomorphological and zoogeomorphical emphases, as well as occasional special issues devoted to topics in biogeomorphology, geomorphology and ecosystems, and zoogeomorphology and ecosystem engineering.

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                        • Pedobiologia.

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                          An international peer-reviewed journal of soil biology. Excellent source for information on geomorphic and bioturbational effects of earthworms, ants and termites, and microbes.

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                          • Physical Geography.

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                            A peer-reviewed, international journal covering geomorphology, biogeography, climatology, and physical natural hazards. Has a history of publishing numerous papers on biogeomorphological topics, particularly biogeomorphology and ecotones. Past special issues have focused on alpine treeline, and on riparian landscapes.

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                            • Progress in Physical Geography.

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                              A peer-reviewed, international journal, encompassing an interdisciplinary approach. Journal covers a variety of topics related to biogeomorphology and broader fields of geomorphology and biogeography. Excellent source of background bibliographies on topics for both research and teaching.

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                              Biogeomorphology

                              Viles 1988 (cited under General Overviews) defined “biogeomorphology” as a “new term designed to encapsulate concisely the concept of an approach to geomorphology which explicitly considers the role of organisms” (p.1). At the time, the term was primarily considered synonymous with “phytogeomorphology,” the study of the interaction of geomorphology with vegetation. Hupp, et al. 1995 considers the term “ecogeomorphology” to be synonymous with “biogeomorphology,” although most studies utilizing the term “ecogeomorphology” are more in line with the concept of phytogeomorphology, in that there are very few studies in ecogeomorphology that examine the role of animals as geomorphic agents. Wheaton, et al. 2011 also employs the term “ecogeomorphology” but illustrates a more narrow perspective more properly defined as phytogeomorphology in the papers in this volume. Thoms, et al. 2007 examines the interactions of geomorphology and ecosystems in another collection of papers that is more phytogeomorphology than truly encompassing the realm of biogeomorphology. The perspective taken by Naylor 2005 on biogeomorphology considers the roles of both vegetation and animals in its analysis and considers that the core biogeomorphological processes are bioerosion, bioprotection, and bioconstruction. Viles, et al. 2008 offers perspectives on the linkages between geomorphology and ecology in a broadly encompassing view of the discipline of biogeomorphology, and suggests that complexity theory offers the possibility for advancement in understanding linkages existing among geomorphology, ecology, and their interface. Hession, et al. 2010 provides strong linkages between biogeomorphology and engineering studies but is limited to an examination of vegetation, not providing any focus on zoogeomorphology. Recently, Corenblit, et al. 2008 and Corenblit and Steiger 2009 have offered a new and somewhat unique concept in biogeomorphology. Although their ideas primarily more properly encompass the narrower confines of phytogeomorphology than the broader biogeomorphology, they suggest that a Darwinian geomorphology exists whereby Earth surface processes and landforms co-evolved with plant morphology and life history, tracing this concept back to the invasion of the surface of the Earth by plants during the Silurian period of the Paleozoic era. It remains to be seen whether this concept will be embraced broadly within the discipline of biogeomorphology.

                              • Corenblit, Dov, Angela M. Gurnell, Johannes Steiger, and Eric Tabacchi. “Reciprocal Adjustments between Landforms and Living Organisms: Extended Geomorphic Evolutionary Insights.” Catena 73 (2008): 261–273.

                                DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2007.11.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Important perspective offered that emphasizes feedback mechanisms, also called reciprocal adjustments, between living organisms and abiotic environment dynamics (i.e., geomorphic processes and resultant landforms). Authors suggest that Earth surface processes and landforms “evolve” as a result of physicochemical processes and the activities of living organisms.

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                                • Corenblit, Dov, and Johannes Steiger. “Vegetation as a Major Conductor of Geomorphic Changes on the Earth Surface: Toward Evolutionary Geomorphology.” Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34 (2009): 891–896.

                                  DOI: 10.1002/esp.1788Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Authors promote concept of a “Darwinian geomorphology” in which Earth surface processes and landforms co-evolved with plant morphology, biomechanics, and life history. Colonization of land by plants in the early Silurian period is suggested as a critical phase for the coupling between biological and geomorphological processes on Earth at the global scale.

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                                  • Hession, W. Cully, Tess Wynn, Lynn Resler, and Joanna Curran, eds. “Special Issue: Geomorphology and Vegetation: Interactions, Dependencies, and Feedback Loops.” Geomorphology 116 (2010).

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                                    Proceedings of the 40th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium, with a preface by the editors and thirteen papers categorized into three groups: coupled geomorphic/vegetation interactions in upland areas, floodplain processes, and vegetation and channel morphology. A mix of field-based and modeling papers, with emphasis on the former.

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                                    • Hupp, Cliff R., W. R. Osterkamp, and A. D. Howard, eds. Biogeomorphology, Terrestrial and Freshwater Systems: Proceedings of the 26th Binghamton Symposium in Geomorphology, Held October 6–8, 1995. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1995.

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                                      Reprinted from Geomorphology 13 (1995): 1–347. Proceedings of the first Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium that was exclusively focused on biogeomorphology, with eighteen of twenty-one papers focused on aspects of phytogeomorphology or general biogeography, and three examining zoogeomorphology. Editors state in preface that they consider the term “ecogeomorphology” to be essentially synonymous with “biogeomorphology.”

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                                      • Naylor, Larissa A. “The Contributions of Biogeomorphology to the Emerging Field of Geobiology.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 219 (2005): 35–51.

                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2004.10.013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Defines the “core biogeomorphological processes” as bioerosion, bioprotection, and bioconstruction. Emphasis is placed on bioconstructional forms, and the article examines important interactions between bionconstruction and bioerosion. Paper also offers suggestions for future research pathways in the field of biogeomorphology. Strong literature review and bibliography.

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                                        • Thoms, Martin C., Chris S. Renschler, and Martin W. Doyle, eds. “Special Issue: Geomorphology and Ecosystems.” Geomorphology 89 (2007).

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                                          Proceedings of the 36th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium, and the second focused on biogeomorphology. Papers were chosen by editors to address the critical interfaces between geomorphology and ecosystems ecology. Editors note the two-way influences of geomorphology on ecosystem processes, and the influences ecosystems have on geomorphic forms and processes.

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                                          • Viles, Heather A., Larissa A. Naylor, N. E. A. Carter, and D. Chaput. “Biogeomorphological Disturbance Regimes: Progress in Linking Ecological and Geomorphological Systems.” Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 33 (2008): 1419–1435.

                                            DOI: 10.1002/esp.1717Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Authors advocate an improved biogeomorphological understanding of linked ecological and geomorphological systems, and illustrate how past efforts emphasize the uniqueness of place. Complexity of systems is illustrated, making it difficult to predict responses, for example, to overgrazing or drought. Paper offers an excellent literature review.

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                                            • Wheaton, Joseph, Christopher Gibbins, and John Wainwright, eds. “Special Issue: Geomorphology on Multiscale Feedbacks in Ecogeomorphology.” Geomorphology 126 (2011).

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                                              A collection of papers from a 2008 session at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting. Preface by editors provides a valuable overview of terms and the history of ecogeomorphology, considered by editors to be synonymous with biogeomorphology. Nine papers are subdivided into categories: wetland feedbacks, fluvial feedbacks, and upland feedbacks.

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                                              Ecotones

                                              The study of ecotones, zones of transition from one environment or biome to another, plays an important part in the field of biogeomorphology. Marginal environments, where one form of vegetation assemblage is giving way to another because of climatic or other reasons, provide the opportunity to examine geomorphic processes operative in either or both of the transitional environments. Biogeomorphologists have been active in the study of bogs and peatlands (e.g., Evans and Warburton 2007). Fagherazzi, et al. 2004 examines the geomorphic/ecological interactions in salt marshes and tidal flats. Both Arctic and alpine treelines have also received the scrutiny of biogeomorphologists. Holtmeier 2009 provides an overview of the ecology and biogeomorphology of mountain treelines around the world, whereas Butler, et al. 2009 offers a specific examination of the treeline in one specific site: Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. Resler and Stine 2009 also examines alpine treelines, as well as ecotone boundaries in bog-meadow environments, and notes similarities as well as differences between the nature of the two environments that shed light on questions of ecotone boundary controls and constraints, as well as on climate change. A great deal of recent focus has been on the effects of climate change and global warming on ecotone boundaries, as seen in Danby and Hik 2007’s examination of recent treeline dynamics in the southwestern Yukon Territory of Canada. Danby 2011 examines the best methods for monitoring changes at both Arctic and alpine treelines across a variety of spatial scales.

                                              • Butler, David R., George P. Malanson, Stephen J. Walsh, and Daniel B. Fagre, eds. The Changing Alpine Treeline: The Example of Glacier National Park, MT, USA. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009.

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                                                Examines effects of climate change on alpine treeline in an iconic American national park. The role of geomorphology, at a variety of scales of geomorphic processes, is the focus of one specific chapter, but the geomorphological setting on which treeline advance is occurring permeates the philosophical underpinning of the book.

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                                                • Danby, Ryan K. “Monitoring Forest-Tundra Ecotones at Multiple Scales.” Geography Compass 5 (2011): 623–640.

                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2011.00447.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  An overview of methods that have been used to identify and quantify change at tundra-forest ecotones around the world. Methods reviewed include resurveys of field transects and plots, repeat photography of both land-based and aerial photos, tree-ring analysis and other paleoenvironmental techniques, use of historical records, and remote sensing.

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                                                  • Danby, Ryan K., and David S. Hik. “Evidence of Recent Treeline Dynamics in Southwest Yukon from Aerial Photographs.” Arctic 60 (2007): 411–420.

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                                                    Compares aerial photographs of treeline locations taken in the late 1940s with photos from the late 1980s, and illustrates several areas of treeline advance in locations without significant geomorphic disturbance, indicating that treeline change is attributable to climatic warming.

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                                                    • Evans, Martin, and Jeff Warburton. Geomorphology of Upland Peat: Erosion, Form and Landscape Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

                                                      DOI: 10.1002/9780470798003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Provides a useful reference on the physical functioning of upland peatlands, their long-term evolution and erosion, and their ecology and management. A detailed, comprehensive examination of the literature on peat erosion. Impacts of climate change and effects of erosion of peatlands on the global carbon cycle are discussed in detail.

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                                                      • Fagherazzi, Sergio, Marco Marani, and Linda K. Blum, eds. The Ecogeomorphology of Tidal Marshes. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union, 2004.

                                                        DOI: 10.1029/CE059Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Thirteen chapters by leading experts on the study of the ecogeomorphology of salt marshes and tidal flats. Examines patterns and structures in salt marshes, biophysical sedimentary processes, conceptual and quantitative models linking ecology and geomorphology of tidal marshes, and the effects of climate change on salt marshes and tidal flats.

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                                                        • Holtmeier, Friedrich-Karl. Mountain Timberlines: Ecology, Patchiness, and Dynamics. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2009.

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                                                          The authoritative text on the ecological and geomorphic controls of alpine treeline, with examples from around the world. Holtmeier’s more than fifty years of experience in treeline research provides a massive number of excellent photographs, maps, and diagrams. Contains an extensive bibliography of more than sixty pages.

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                                                          • Resler, Lynn M., and Melanie B. Stine. “Patterns and Processes of Tree Islands in Two Transitional Environments: Alpine Treeline and Bog Forest-Meadow Ecotones.” Geography Compass 3 (2009): 1–26.

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                                                            Describes tree island patterns and growth forms, and the internal and external factors that affect tree island distribution in bog-meadow and treeline ecotones. Similarities and differences between the two environments shed light on broader questions of environmental change, constraints, and controls.

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                                                            Riparian Landscapes and Woody Debris

                                                            Riparian landscapes encompass streamside and floodplain areas. As such, they are prime locations for observing the interactions of geomorphic processes (streamflow, bank erosion and sedimentation, overbank flooding, and floodplain scouring and deposition) with life-forms living in, along, and adjacent to bodies of running water. For those seeking an entryway into the concepts of biogeomorphology as they relate to riparian landscape, Malanson 1993 offers the most accessible beginning. Hupp and Osterkamp 1996 provides a shorter but excellent overview of the interactions between stream processes and riparian landscapes, but does not examine the role of animals in and on those landscapes. Bennett and Simon 2004 provides field studies and a variety of theoretical approaches to the study of fluvial landscapes and their interactions with riparian vegetation, again, however, not offering any emphasis on animals in the riparian landscape. One of the most closely studied aspects of stream/vegetation interaction is the role that woody debris, either garnered from the adjacent streambanks and hillslopes or delivered from upstream, plays in riparian landscapes. Marston 1982 offers an in-depth, meticulous presentation on how log steps in stream channels act to retain sediment within channels, thereby reducing downstream transport of sediment. This work is among the most widely cited of all papers on the topic of woody debris. The effects of woody debris in streams vary spatially, however, and with stream order. Marcus, et al. 2002 provides a case study from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, that illustrates that first- and second-order streams, the smallest permanent streams in a fluvial landscape, contain the greatest quantities of woody debris because of their lower velocities and inability to move and remove the woody debris present. At larger spatial scales, in third- and fourth-order streams, there exists a much greater variation in the amount of woody debris present. Within a sixth-order stream in their study area, little woody debris existed because of the transportational ability of the large stream. Curran and Wohl 2003 follows in the intellectual footsteps of Marston 1982 in its detailed examination of the role of wood steps in streams and provides a comparison of the effects of those steps with those of steps in stream profiles created by the presence of rocks within the channels. Bendix and Cowell 2010 offers an interesting perspective on how fire can act as a supplier of downed trees in a drainage basin which then become woody debris within stream channels. This interaction of the role of fire within stream systems is not one frequently examined within biogeomorphology.

                                                            • Bendix, Jacob, and C. Mark Cowell. “Fire, Floods, and Woody Debris: Interactions between Biotic and Geomorphic Processes.” Geomorphology 116 (2010): 297–304.

                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.09.043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Examines interaction of fire and floods in the riparian zone as processes that structure both landforms and plant communities. Fire is shown to affect not only vegetation but also landforms through influence on runoff, sediment supply, and woody debris volume. Illustrates an important connection showing burnt trees as floodplain woody debris.

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                                                              • Bennett, Sean J., and Andrew Simon, eds. Riparian Vegetation and Fluvial Geomorphology. Papers presented at the fall 2001 American Geophysical Union meeting. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union, 2004.

                                                                DOI: 10.1029/WS008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Collection of nineteen papers that illustrate how riparian vegetation plays a critical role in biological, physical, and hydraulic functions of streams and rivers. Includes experimental, theoretical, and numerical studies, and field studies of large woody debris, bank erosion and channel stability, and floodplains and watershed processes.

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                                                                • Curran, Janet H., and Ellen E. Wohl. “Large Woody Debris and Flow Resistance in Step-Pool Channels, Cascade Range, Washington.” Geomorphology 51 (2003): 141–157.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/S0169-555X(02)00333-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Paper illustrates the importance of large woody debris in affecting channel hydraulics in steep step-pool stream sequences. Woody debris induces larger steps than clast-induced steps, producing steep step-pool stream profiles. Woody debris acting as steps contributes more to total flow resistance than nonstep-forming wood.

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                                                                  • Hupp, Cliff R., and W. R. Osterkamp. “Riparian Vegetation and Fluvial Geomorphic Processes.” Geomorphology 14 (1996): 277–295.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/0169-555X(95)00042-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Important paper by two authoritative experts in the field examines the relations among vegetation, geomorphic processes, and landforms for representative streams from four areas in the United States: high-gradient streams of the humid East, coastal plain streams, Great Plains streams, and dryland streams of the southwestern United States.

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                                                                    • Malanson, George P. Riparian Landscapes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511565434Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Authoritative text, with extensive bibliography of pre-1993 literature, examining the ecological systems of floodplain and streamside areas. Illustrates that specific spatial patterns of riparian vegetation are a result of—as well as a control on—geomorphological, hydrological, and ecological processes that operate along rivers.

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                                                                      • Marcus, W. Andrew, Richard A. Marston, Charles R. Colvard Jr., and Robin D. Gray. “Mapping the Spatial and Temporal Distributions of Woody Debris in Streams of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA.” Geomorphology 44 (2002): 323–335.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/S0169-555X(01)00181-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Summarizes effects of woody debris on geomorphology and ecology of streams. Illustrates how woody debris varies spatially by stream order. First- and second-order streams contain the greatest amount, with varying amounts in third- and fourth-order streams. A large sixth-order stream had little woody debris because of the stream’s ability to carry wood away.

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                                                                        • Marston, Richard A. “The Geomorphic Significance of Log Steps in Forest Streams.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 72 (1982): 99–108.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.1982.tb01386.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Classic paper on importance of log steps in streams as retainers of sediment that would otherwise be flushed downstream. Shows that depriving a stream of woody debris steps by stream cleanout or repeated harvest of stream-adjacent trees may initiate progressive erosion by not dissipating stream energy.

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                                                                          Hillslope Stability, Rooting, and Tree-Tip Mounds

                                                                          Vegetation on hillslopes is the focus of many studies in biogeomorphology, because without vegetation the slopes rapidly shed sediment and erode intensely, sometimes with spectacularly disastrous results such as large landslides. A good entry point into the topic is the recent extensive review Marston 2010, which provides a rich bibliography, numerous examples of the interactions between geomorphology and vegetation on slopes, and suggestions for future research. Among specific topics examined in the study of hillslopes and vegetation, rooting and tree throw, leading to the production of mound-and-pit topography, have received a significant amount of attention. Small 1997 illustrates through an analysis of repeat photography that the uprooted sediment associated with tree throw erodes most quickly from the root ball within the first several years. Norman, et al. 1995 illustrates the significance of slope angle in determining whether uprooted sediment will fall to earth and backfill the exposed pit, or instead enter the debris cascade and progress downslope. Its results logically support the conclusion that steeper slopes are more likely to foster sediment movement from tree throw, whereas gentler slopes will experience a greater amount of backfilling into exposed pits. Rates of sediment overturning associated not only with tree throw but also with infilling of rotted stump holes and with sediment movement by root growth are examined by Phillips and Marion 2006, which provides a somewhat startling conclusion that overturning and mixing rates on some hillslopes are sufficient to completely overturn the entire soil mantle within the time frame of the Holocene Epoch, within 10,000–12,000 years. Francisco Pérez has produced a series of papers of importance that examine the protection role of both stones and vegetation in stabilizing hillslopes. Pérez 2007 illustrates how the endemic Hawaiian silversword plant protects relatively loose volcanic slopes inside the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui, leading to the production of miniature mounds beneath the silversword as the adjacent cinders unprotected by the silversword are eroded downslope. The role of stones and boulders on hillslopes is examined in Pérez 2009, which shows how the presence of stones can preclude the establishment of stabilizing vegetation; but at the same time, stones can offer protection to seedlings and young plants (the nurse rock concept) from wind, radiation, and erosion. This extensive review is an excellent introduction to the topic of hillslope stability and vegetation from the perspective of the role of rocks on hillslopes. In a unique paper, Pérez 2010 shows the interactions between hillslopes, vegetation, grazing and burrowing animals, and erosional processes by tracing the fate of moss balls on the slopes of Haleakala. For a truly unusual biogeomorphic experience, this paper cannot be missed.

                                                                          • Marston, Richard A. “Geomorphology and Vegetation on Hillslopes: Interactions, Dependencies, and Feedback Loops.” Geomorphology 116 (2010): 206–217.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.09.028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Important review of linkages between hillslope geomorphology and vegetation, with extensive bibliography. Reviews interactions across a variety of spatial scales, and provides suggestions for future research across this variety of scales. Points out importance of complexity theory in leading to possible outcomes and place-dependent results.

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                                                                            • Norman, Scott A., Randall J. Schaetzl, and Thomas W. Small. “Effects of Slope Angle on Mass Movement by Tree Uprooting.” Geomorphology 14 (1995): 19–27.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/0169-555X(95)00016-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Examination of 189 mounds and pits formed by tree uprooting revealed uprooting on steeper slopes resulted in almost complete downslope slumping or surface wash of uprooted sediment, whereas uprooting on gentler slopes produced considerable backfilling from adjacent mound. Steep slopes therefore allow approximation of root plate volume from pit volume.

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                                                                              • Pérez, Francisco L. “Biogeomorphological Influence of the Hawaiian Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicence DC.) on Soil Erosion in Haleakala (Maui, Hawai‛i).” Catena 71 (2007): 41–55.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2006.07.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Reports results of research in the Haleakala volcanic crater, illustrating how silversword protects and enriches underlying soil, whereas adjacent unprotected soil is eroded by rainsplash and runoff, culminating in microtopographic mounds under silversword plants. An excellent example of a detailed field study.

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                                                                                • Pérez, Francisco L. “Phytogeomorphic Influence of Stone Covers and Boulders on Plant Distribution and Slope Processes in High-Mountain Areas.” Geography Compass 3 (2009): 1–30.

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                                                                                  A well-illustrated review paper describing the importance of stones and stone cover on hillslope processes and plant distributions in mountainous areas, primarily based on the author’s extensive field research in low-latitude high mountains and volcanic areas. Examines both how stones protect and preclude plants on steep hillslopes.

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                                                                                  • Pérez, Francisco L. “Biogeomorphic Relationships between Slope Processes and Globular Grimmia Mosses in Haleakala’s Crater (Maui, Hawai‛i).” Geomorphology 116 (2010): 218–235.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.11.017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    A unique study of moss balls growing on hillslopes in the crater of Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui. Moss balls form when moss cushions are dislodged by geomorphic processes, including burrowing by birds and goat grazing. Biogeomorphic interactions between mossballs and substrate represent a self-replicating moss-dispersal system dependent on slope processes.

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                                                                                    • Phillips, Jonathan D., and Daniel A. Marion. “Biomechanical Effects of Trees on Soil and Regolith: Beyond Treethrow.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96 (2006): 233–247.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.2006.00476.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Study of soil displacement in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas by root growth, tree tipping, and infilling of stump rot pits revealed rates resulting in complete regolith turnover over time scales comparable to the Holocene. Tree uprooting, stump holes, and sediment displacement effectively maintain a continuously mixed surface biomantle.

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                                                                                      • Small, T. W. “The Goodlett-Denny Mound: A Glimpse at 45 Years of Pennsylvania Treethrow Mount Evolution with Implications for Mass Wasting.” Geomorphology 18 (1997): 305–313.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/S0169-555X(96)00039-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Repeat photography of a tree-tip mound first photographed in 1950 revealed extensive erosion of sediment in the root platelet. Determination of erosion rates early and later in the life of the tree-tip mound reveal that sediment shedding and subsequent downslope movement are greatest in the early years following uprooting.

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                                                                                        Substrate Control of Vegetation Distribution

                                                                                        The importance of biogeomorphological control of vegetation distribution is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in locations where specific lithologies (rock types) produce soils that restrict some vegetation from becoming established and, instead, encourage colonization by unique vegetation. Huggett 1995 provides an accessible entry to this topic through several chapters that examine the role of unique soils, geology, and topography on ecosystems. For a specific examination of the role of landforms and rock type on plant establishment and distribution, the classic book Kruckeberg 2002 is well written, easy to read, and without competition. Kruckeberg’s career was devoted to the study of the effects of geology on plant distribution, and this book illustrates his deep knowledge and familiarity with the topic. Two papers, Whittaker 1954 and Wright and Mooney 1965, provide specific case studies that examine the role of lithology in determining plant establishment. Whittaker 1954 describes the classic case of the vegetational response to serpentine soils (soils derived from rocks rich in iron and magnesium), whereas Wright and Mooney 1965 illustrates how the distribution of the bristlecone pines of the White Mountains of California is spatially coincidental with the distribution of dolomite bedrock.

                                                                                        • Huggett, Richard John. Geoecology: An Evolutionary Approach. New York: Routledge, 1995.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.4324/9780203307373Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Important text examining the structure and function of geoecosystems. Includes chapters on the influence on ecosystems of climate and soils, topography, and substrate. Also discusses geomorphic disturbances such as volcanic eruptions, animal grazing, glacial advances, and cosmic impacts. Includes a comprehensive thirty-page bibliography. Numerous panchromatic photographs, maps, and diagrams.

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                                                                                          • Kruckeberg, Arthur R. Geology and Plant Life: The Effects of Landforms and Rock Types on Plants. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002.

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                                                                                            Authoritative text on how landforms and rock types influence plant distributions, with chapters on influence of soils on plant life, landforms and plant life, lithology and plant life, and human influences on the geology-plant interface. A fitting monument to the career of one of the most important figures in geobotany.

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                                                                                            • Whittaker, Robert H., ed. “The Vegetational Response to Serpentine Soils.” Ecology 35 (1954): 275–288.

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                                                                                              A series of classic papers, with introduction by Whittaker, on the role of serpentine soils and their influence on plant distributions. Papers by R. B. Walker, A. R. Kruckeberg, and R. H. Whittaker illustrate the unique endemic flora found associated with areas of serpentine soils.

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                                                                                              • Wright, R. D., and H. A. Mooney. “Substrate-Oriented Distribution of Bristlecone Pine in the White Mountains of California.” American Midland Naturalist 73 (1965): 257–284.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2423454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                A classic in the field of biogeomorphology, this paper illustrates the strong spatial relationship between dolomitic soils and distribution of bristlecone pine. Sagebrush is intolerant of the low nutrient status of dolomitic soils and tolerates dryer sandstone and granitic soils. Cooler north-facing slopes with dolomitic soils are especially favored by bristlecones.

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                                                                                                Fire as a Geomorphic Agent

                                                                                                Fire is dependent on the presence of organic material, especially vegetation, on the landscape, and so it is inherently a topic for study in biogeomorphology. Blackwelder 1927 was one of the first to recognize the importance of fire as an agent in breaking down rocks into smaller particles as a result of intense heating. This work also illustrated that daily or seasonal changes in rock temperature caused by direct solar heating were insufficient to cause rocks to fracture. Dorn 2003 provides a tidy study that illustrates not only the efficacy of fire in shattering boulders, but also how in some cases boulders may be completely reduced to small particles by the intense heating of a wildland fire. Shakesby and Doerr 2006 summarizes a vast literature on the geomorphological and hydrological effects of fire and offers suggestions for future research avenues on the subject. For a specific example of research examining how fire influences erosion and sedimentation, Morris and Moses 1987 illustrates just how much sediment can be introduced into the hillslope debris cascade as a result of forest fires in the Colorado Front Range. Their results were surprising in terms of the degree of magnitude of erosion enhanced by fire.

                                                                                                • Blackwelder, Eliot. “Fire as an Agent in Rock Weathering.” Journal of Geology 35 (1927): 134–140.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/623392Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  One of the first published descriptions of how fire spalls rocks in areas subjected to forest fires. Includes field observations of spalled rocks, and results from an experiment illustrating temperatures necessary to fracture rocks. Experimental results suggested that daily/seasonal temperature contrasts from solar heating are insufficient to fracture rocks.

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                                                                                                  • Dorn, Ronald I. “Boulder Weathering and Erosion Associated with a Wildfire, Sierra Ancha Mountains, Arizona.” Geomorphology 55 (2003): 155–171.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/S0169-555X(03)00138-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Boulders originally surveyed in 1989 were resurveyed after a fire in 2000, and again after winter in 2001 in southern Arizona. Fire predisposed boulders to subsequent post-fire weathering at accelerated rates. Numerous boulders from 1989 were also not relocated, with “boulder obliteration” due to fire the assumed cause.

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                                                                                                    • Morris, Scott E., and Todd A. Moses. “Forest Fire and the Natural Soil Erosion Regime in the Colorado Front Range.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77 (1987): 245–254.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.1987.tb00156.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Authors suggest that forest fire disturbances may account for a large portion of long-term sediment yield in the Colorado Front Range. Evidence from sediment traps showed sediment flux rates in burned areas as much as three orders of magnitude higher than in unburned areas.

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                                                                                                      • Shakesby, Richard A., and Stefan H. Doerr. “Wildfire as a Hydrological and Geomorphological Agent.” Earth-Science Reviews 74 (2006): 269–307.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2005.10.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Extensive review of the effects of wildfire from a geomorphological/hydrological perspective, with comprehensive bibliography. Focuses particularly on research from the Mediterranean Basin, Australia, and South Africa and compares with research from the United States. Several research gaps are identified that offer potential for future research.

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                                                                                                        Dendrogeomorphology

                                                                                                        Dendrogeomorphology is the application of tree-ring analysis to the dating of geomorphic processes. Tree ring studies predate the application of tree-ring analysis to the dating of geomorphic processes, and Speer 2010 provides a thorough analysis of these applications as well as a chapter examining dendrogeomorphology. A wide variety of geomorphic processes, described in Shroder 1980, may be successfully dated with the application of event-response tree-ring methodology developed in Shroder 1978. Event-response methodology, which examines a specific geomorphic event that induces a datable response in the tree rings of trees affected by the event, has been extended widely since the initial application of Shroder 1978. Stoffel, et al. 2010 provides numerous examples of the applications of dendrogeomorphological principles for dating hazardous geomorphic (and other) natural processes. For those seeking a straightforward “how to” lesson in dendrogeomorphology, Stoffel and Bollschweiler 2009 is a well-illustrated primer. Decaule and Sæmundsson 2008 offers an example of the application of dendrogeomorphology to one specific geomorphic hazard: snow avalanches in Iceland.

                                                                                                        • Decaulne, Armelle, and Þorsteinn Sæmundsson. “Dendrogeomorphology as a Tool to Unravel Snow-Avalanche Activity: Preliminary Results from the Fnjóskadalur Test Site, Northern Iceland.” Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift 62 (2008): 55–65.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/00291950802094742Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Excellent case study illustrating application of dendrogeomorphological principles from a study area not normally considered amenable to tree-ring studies. Study has an unusually rich dataset and offers an extensive bibliography of previous studies utilizing tree-ring analysis for dating past snow-avalanche events in North America and Europe.

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                                                                                                          • Shroder, John F., Jr. “Dendrogeomorphological Analysis of Mass Movement on Table Cliffs Plateau, Utah.” Quaternary Research 9 (1978): 168–185.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/0033-5894(78)90065-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Paper provides the foundations for the use of event-response methodology, the standard technique used to the present for tree-ring dating of geomorphic processes. Analysis is applied to a rock-glacier-like mass movement in southern Utah, shown to have moved many times over at least two hundred years.

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                                                                                                            • Shroder, John F., Jr. “Dendrogeomorphology: Review and New Techniques of Tree-Ring Dating.” Progress in Physical Geography 4 (1980): 161–188.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/030913338000400202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              A widely cited paper, a thorough literature review of pre-1980s tree-ring research in geomorphology. Combined with Shroder 1978 this work established the benchmark for all subsequent dendrogeomorphological studies across North America, Europe, and the rest of the world.

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                                                                                                              • Speer, James H. Fundamentals of Tree-Ring Research. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                Speer’s text provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of tree-ring research, including chapters on dendroecology and dendrogeomorphology. Includes several useful appendices and is profusely and well illustrated throughout.

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                                                                                                                • Stoffel, Markus, and Michelle Bollschweiler. “What Tree Rings Can Tell about Earth-Surface Processes: Teaching the Principles of Dendrogeomorphology.” Geography Compass 3 (2009): 1013–1037.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2009.00223.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  A well-illustrated, easy-to-read primer on how to use tree rings for dating geomorphic processes, provides a useful reading for graduate seminars on the subject. Contains an extensive and useful bibliography, along with good color illustrations of tree-ring damage and photomicrographs of cellular damage in tree rings.

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                                                                                                                  • Stoffel, Markus, Michelle Bollschweiler, David R. Butler, and Brian H. Luckman, eds. Tree Rings and Natural Hazards. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2010.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-8736-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Illustrates the application of dendrogeomorphological techniques to a variety of geomorphic and nongeomorphic natural hazards, including snow avalanches, landslides, rockfall, debris flows, flooding, meteorological phenomena, wildfires, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Authors of individual chapters are dendrogeomorphological practitioners from around the world, including North America, western Europe, Russia, and South America.

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                                                                                                                    Zoogeomorphology

                                                                                                                    Zoogeomorphology, as described in detail in Butler 1995, is the specific portion of biogeomorphology that examines the geomorphic effects of animals. Zoogeomorphology is a significantly smaller portion of the whole of biogeomorphology, but as evidenced by Darwin 1881, it has a long and honored history. Animals act as geomorphic agents through a variety of processes, including the erosional, transportational, and depositional processes described in Butler 1995. Davis 1928 and Guilcher 1988 are monographs on one specific constructional landform created by animals, coral reefs. These works, published sixty years apart, provide a wealth of information and detail on these fascinating tropical landforms. Interest in zoogeomorphology as a distinct subsection of biogeomorphology has grown dramatically since publication of Butler 1995, as illustrated in the papers from the 42nd Annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium offered by Butler and Sawyer 2012. Jones 2012, one of the papers included in Butler and Sawyer 2012, illustrates how zoogeomorphology has developed on a parallel track to ecosystem engineering in ecology. The work offers insights into how the two subjects complement each other, and wonders whether life leaves a signature imprint on the surface of the Earth. Eriksson 2011 provides an example of the growth in the study of the burrowing effects of rodents that occurred since the publication of Butler 1995, which summarized earlier works such as Thorn 1978, which was one of the first published papers to specifically address the geomorphic influences of pocket gophers.

                                                                                                                    • Butler, David R. Zoogeomorphology: Animals as Geomorphic Agents. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Widely cited monograph focused on the geomorphic effects of animals. Emphasis is on natural, free-ranging populations. Examines the effects of invertebrates, fish, amphibians and reptiles, and mammals. Impacts examined include geophagy, lithophagy, trampling, wallowing, mound building, food caching, digging for food, burrowing and denning, and the effects of beavers.

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                                                                                                                      • Butler, David R., and Carol F. Sawyer, eds. “Special Issue: Zoogeomorphology and Ecosystem Engineering.” Geomorphology 157–158 (2012).

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                                                                                                                        Proceedings of the 42nd Binghamton Symposium on Geomorphology, and the first to exclusively focus on the role of animals as geomorphic agents and/or ecosystem engineers. Impacts examined range from microbial activity to the effects of large mammals such as elephants. Contains an introductory chapter and fifteen individual papers.

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                                                                                                                        • Darwin, Charles. The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits. London: John Murray, 1881.

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                                                                                                                          A work ahead of its time, Darwin’s last publication was the first major published work in the field of zoogeomorphology. Based on meticulous observations of the bioturbational actions of worms, with sketch drawings of worm castings and miniature mounds.

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                                                                                                                          • Davis, William Morris. The Coral Reef Problem. Special Publication 9. New York: American Geographical Society, 1928.

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                                                                                                                            The eminent geomorphologist W. M. Davis spent his final years focusing on the question of how coral reefs grow and develop, and this monograph summarizes his observations. Although clearly dated today, it offers important insight into the geomorphological focus on a specific form of zoogeomorphology from early in the 20th century.

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                                                                                                                            • Eriksson, Bert. The Zoo-geomorphological Impact of Fossorial Rodents in Sub-polar and Alpine Environments. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet, 2011.

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                                                                                                                              Based on a thesis at Uppsala University, focus is upon the interactions between burrowing rodents, vegetation, and landforms in alpine and subpolar regions. Effects of burrowing house mice and Norwegian lemmings are primary field-based examples, with extensive literature review of six other rodents in subpolar and alpine environments.

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                                                                                                                              • Guilcher, André. Coral Reef Geomorphology. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                An important text that considers the environments in which coral reefs grow and how they are built, and offers an in-depth examination of the literature on coral reefs from the time of Charles Darwin to the 1980s. Examines research by a wide range of international coral reef scholars.

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                                                                                                                                • Jones, Clive G. “Ecosystem Engineers and Geomorphological Signatures in Landscapes.” Geomorphology 157–158 (2012): 75–87.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.04.039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Jones and colleagues defined the concept of ecosystem engineering, and here he offers his ecological perspectives on geomorphological change caused by ecosystem engineers in patches within a landscape ecology framework. An important theoretical examination of the field of ecosystem engineering and its interaction with zoogeomorphology.

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                                                                                                                                  • Thorn, Colin E. “A Preliminary Assessment of the Geomorphic Role of Pocket Gophers in the Alpine Zone of the Colorado Front Range.” Geografiska Annaler 60A (1978): 181–187.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/520441Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    One of the first published papers in the field of geomorphology that specifically addressed the burrowing effects of a particular animal. Thorn’s work set the stage for many subsequent works examining fossorial (tunneling) animals.

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                                                                                                                                    Examples of Zoogeomorphological Processes

                                                                                                                                    Animals affect the landscape in a variety of ways, including trampling, wallowing, digging for food, excavation of burrows and dens, construction of mounds, mixing of soils, and even stabilizing sediments so that they are not eroded. Statzner 2012 examines the role of animals that live in streams, and provides examples of both sediment stabilization and sediment destabilization and subsequent movement downstream. This work is based on many years of field and laboratory experiments and is a thorough and meticulous presentation. The effects of trampling by domestic animals are examined in Trimble and Mendel 1995 and McHugh 2007. Trimble and Mendel 1995 provides a thorough literature review on the topic of the effects of cattle grazing, and illustrates how trampling produces compacted soils that in turn preclude infiltration and instead produce rapid runoff and erosion. It also describes the chiseling effects that cattle hooves have along stream margins, where large amounts of sediment can be carved off and introduced into, and subsequently removed by, streams. McHugh 2007 illustrates the role of heavy sheep grazing in causing erosion acceleration and expansion in the uplands of England and Wales. Soil mixing, or bioturbation, typically is accompanied by some form of mound production, and these are the topics of Richards 2009 and Wilkinson, et al. 2009. Richards 2009 discusses the rather astonishingly high rates of sediment bioturbation produced by a specific genus of ant. Wilkinson, et al. 2009 offers an extremely thorough review of bioturbation studies, covering studies from the late 1800s to the present. Burrowing for shelter, food acquisition, and production of birthing chambers also produces bioturbation, but additional extensive underground tunnel systems as well as surface spoil mounds at the mouths of burrow entrances. Kinlaw 1999 thoroughly reviews the effects of burrowing by both “cold-blooded” and “warm-blooded” animals in arid environments. Mielke 1977 focuses on the interrelationship between gopher burrowing and the presence of Mima mounds in the semiarid American West, and speculates as to whether the mounds are a result of gopher burrowing, or whether instead gophers burrow in Mima mounds because the sediments there are more easily excavated. Burrowing behavior in birds often strikes people as unusual, but many colonial seabirds employ burrows for birthing chambers as well as protection from the elements. Bancroft, et al. 2005 illustrates that the effects of burrowing on soils is enhanced by the addition of guano from the birds.

                                                                                                                                    • Bancroft, Wesley J., Mark J. Garkaklis, and J. Dale Roberts. “Burrow Building in Seabird Colonies: A Soil-Forming Process in Island Ecosystems.” Pedobiologia 49 (2005): 149–165.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.pedobi.2004.10.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Examines effect of burrow building by the wedge-tailed shearwater, a colonial seabird, on soils in island ecosystems. Burrowing alone does not account for observed changes, but burrowing in concert with introduction of guano does. Authors argue that physical impacts of birds on soil should not be overlooked as an ecosystem-shaping factor.

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                                                                                                                                      • Kinlaw, Al. “A Review of Burrowing by Semi-fossorial Vertebrates in Arid Environments.” Journal of Arid Environments 41 (1999): 127–145.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1006/jare.1998.0476Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Author uses an extensive search of ecological literature databases to categorize and discuss the effects of burrowing in arid environments. Presents a simple conceptual model for the role of burrows in the environment. Also compares effects of burrowing by reptiles and by mammals.

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                                                                                                                                        • McHugh, Marianne. “Short-Term Changes in Upland Soil Erosion in England and Wales: 1999–2002.” Geomorphology 86 (2007): 204–213.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.06.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Over a three-year period of study, over half of 139 upland study sites experienced increases in extent of soil erosion. Sheep were identified as the primary cause for increased erosional extent. Maintenance of bare soil was attributed to water-driven erosion, sheep, and human erosion from trail walkers.

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                                                                                                                                          • Mielke, Howard W. “Mound Building by Pocket Gophers (Geomyidae): Their Impact on Soils and Vegetation in North America.” Journal of Biogeography 4 (1977): 171–180.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/3038161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Pocket gophers are frequently studied in zoogeomorphology, and Mielke’s paper is widely cited. Examines effects of gophers on soils in Mima mounds, circular mounds found in western North America. The question of whether gophers create Mima mounds, or gophers choose to dig in Mima mounds, is a classic “chicken-and-egg” problem.

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                                                                                                                                            • Richards, Paul J. “Aphaenogaster Ants as Bioturbators: Impacts on Soil and Slope Processes.” Earth-Science Reviews 96 (2009): 92–106.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2009.06.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Richards examines a genus of ants that is a prolific mound builder, both in number and in rates of production. Ant bioturbation is shown to have profound implications for surface erosion and hydrology, and is invoked as a good example of ecosystem engineering.

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                                                                                                                                              • Statzner, Bernhard. “Geomorphological Implications of Engineering Bed Sediments by Lotic Animals.” Geomorphology 157–158 (2012): 49–65.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.03.022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Important paper reviewing the effects of lotic animals (those living in running water) on bed sediments and stream erosion. Focuses on the effects of silk-spanning caddis flies, crayfish, and redd-excavating fish in either stabilizing or initiating movement of bedload sediments in streams. Contains a very useful, extensive bibliography.

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                                                                                                                                                • Trimble, Stanley W., and Alexandra C. Mendel. “The Cow as a Geomorphic Agent.” Geomorphology 13 (1995): 233–253.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/0169-555X(95)00028-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Illustrates how cattle grazing compacts soil, reduces infiltration, and increases runoff, resulting in increased erosion and sediment yield. Also describes direct chiseling of streambanks by cattle hooves. Paper also offers a useful extensive bibliography on the effects of grazing by domestic animals.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Wilkinson, Marshall T., Paul J. Richards, and Geoff S. Humphreys. “Breaking Ground: Pedological, Geological, and Ecological Implications of Soil Bioturbation.” Earth-Science Reviews 97 (2009): 257–272.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2009.09.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    A significant review of the effects of bioturbation, going back to works of Darwin and Nathaniel Shaler in the late 19th century. Primary effects of bioturbation are shown to be soil production from saprolite, formation of surface mounds, soil burial, and downslope sediment transport. Quantitative rates are presented from the literature.

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                                                                                                                                                    Beavers and Beaver Dam Construction

                                                                                                                                                    One of the most significant zoogeomorphological agents is the beaver—in North America, the Canadian beaver, Castor canadensis, and in Europe, the European beaver, Castor fiber. Many more Canadian beavers currently exist than do European beavers, but historically their influences may have been equally important. Butler 1995 presents an entire chapter devoted to the geomorphic effects of beavers, and is a useful and accessible place to familiarize oneself with the topic and the literature predating the mid-1990s. Naiman, et al. 1988 provides a good history of the beaver in North America and places their activities within the context of the paradigm of landscape ecology. Known for their unique ability to construct dams, beavers and the variety of dam types they build are the focus of a short but very useful paper, Woo and Waddington 1990, which also illustrates the effects of beaver dams on water retention and evaporation rates. Gurnell 1998 offers a valuable examination of the specific hydrogeomorphological results of beaver-dam construction, as well as a valuable literature review. Westbrook, et al. 2011 and Polvi and Wohl 2012 offer complementary views on how “beaver meadows” form. Beaver meadows have been described in the literature since the 1930s and are briefly summarized in Butler 1995, but the specifics of the sedimentation necessary for their construction have not been clear. Westbrook, et al. 2011 illustrates the role of overbank flooding and bank scouring in assisting in beaver meadow formation. Polvi and Wohl 2012 shows that beaver meadows in Colorado contain sediments laid down over thousands of years, and that those meadows are comprised of sediments equally derived from stream sedimentation and from sedimentation in beaver ponds. The geomorphic effects of European beavers are also given specific attention in the literature. John and Klein 2004 describes changes in channel pattern, sediment redistribution across floodplains in a fashion similar to that described by Westbrook, et al. 2011, and floodplain erosion attributable to beaver dams and drainage redistribution. Nyssen, et al. 2011 examines the role of reintroduced European beavers in the Belgian Ardennes and illustrates how their reestablishment is altering stream hydrology throughout the area.

                                                                                                                                                    • Butler, David R. Zoogeomorphology: Animals as Geomorphic Agents. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Butler’s monograph provides a detailed chapter on the geomorphic effects of beavers, which extend beyond dam building with resultant pond creation, to reduction of stream velocity, inducement of sedimentation, and excavation of bank burrows and beaver canals. Numerous photographs of beaver landforms are provided, along with extensive references.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Gurnell, Angela M. “The Hydrogeomorphological Effects of Beaver Dam-Building Activity.” Progress in Physical Geography 22 (1998): 167–189.

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                                                                                                                                                        A widely cited review, with extensive bibliography, examining the hydrogeomorphological effects of dam construction by beavers. Focus is on European beavers, but review also covers important papers on the North American Canadian beaver. Provides a “bullet list” in conclusions on the effects of dam construction that is useful for teaching.

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                                                                                                                                                        • John, Stefan, and Andreas Klein. “Hydrogeomorphic Effects of Beaver Dams on Floodplain Morphology: Avulsion Processes and Sediment Fluxes in Upland Valley Floors (Spessart, Germany).” Quaternaire 15 (2004): 219–231.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.3406/quate.2004.1769Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          A detailed examination of the geomorphic effects of the European beaver, Castor fiber, on a floodplain in Germany. Hydrogeomorphic changes of channel pattern, sediment flux and redistribution, and erosion on the floodplain are discussed. A useful entry into the zoogeomorphic effects of European beaver with good bibliography.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Naiman, Robert J., Carol A. Johnston, and James C. Kelley. “Alteration of North American Streams by Beaver.” BioScience 38 (1988): 753–762.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/1310784Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Places the geomorphic impacts of beavers within the context of landscape ecology and patch creation. Provides useful reviews of the history of the beaver in North America, their effects on stream channels, and impacts on riparian habitat. An excellent entry point for understanding the zoogeomorphological and ecological impacts of beavers.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Nyssen, J., J. Pontzeele, and P. Billi. “Effects of Beaver Dams on the Hydrology of Small Mountain Streams: Example from the Chevral in the Ourthe Orientale basin, Ardennes, Belgium.” Journal of Hydrology 402 (2011): 92–102.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.03.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Presents the first hydrological study of the impacts of beaver after reintroduction in western Europe. Comparisons of hydrographs that predate and postdate beaver reintroduction illustrate that beaver dams lower discharge peaks, delay peak flows by approximately one day, and increase low flow rates. A detailed and useful analytical study.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Polvi, Lina E., and Ellen E. Wohl. “The Beaver Meadow Complex Revisited: The Role of Beavers in Post-Glacial Floodplain Development.” Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 37 (2012): 332–346.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1002/esp.2261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Sediment analyses from cores and cutbanks were used to determine rates and types of sedimentation in meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Radiocarbon dates indicated long-term beaver sedimentation, with 32–50 percent of meadow sediments attributed to pond sedimentation induced by beaver damming. Important paper illustrating long-term beaver impacts on sedimentation.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Westbrook, Cherie J., David J. Cooper, and Bruce W. Baker. “Beaver Assisted River Valley Formation.” River Research and Applications 27 (2011): 247–256.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1002/rra.1359Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  A complementary work to Polvi and Wohl 2012, illustrating how beaver dams trigger overbank flooding that disperses sediment across floodplains in some locations and soil scouring in others. The bare sediment exposed by scouring or deposition was quickly colonized by plants, forming a beaver meadow.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Woo, Ming-ko, and James M. Waddington. “Effects of Beaver Dams on Subarctic Wetland Hydrology.” Arctic 43 (1990): 223–230.

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                                                                                                                                                                    An examination of beaver-dam types and their effects on hydrology, pond formation, and rates of water retention and evaporation in northern Ontario. Dam types include overflow, gapflow, through flow, and under flow, and useful tabular data on dam morphologies is presented. Dams substantially reduce water loss attributed to runoff.

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