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Conceptualizing Anthropogenic Change in Fluvial Systems: Drainage Development on the Upper Embarras River, Illinois

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While the geomorphic structure of many landscapes is materially molded, shaped and transformed by human practices, it is at the same time experienced and perceived through the mediation of cultural discourse and representation. The objective of this article is twofold: (1) to establish a conceptual framework for integrated analysis of human and geomorphic dimensions of landscape change; and (2) to illustrate the use of this framework in the assessment of a physical system severely affected by human agency. This perspective offers one way in which human agency can be synthesized and integrated into aspects of physical geography— specifically fluvial geomorphology— from both a conceptual and a pragmatic point of view. The upper Embarras River in east central Illinois, used as a case study, has been and continues to be physically affected by the cultural practice of agricultural drainage over the past century and a half.

Keywords: environmental management; geomorphology; human agency; landscape change

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Missouri

Publication date: May 1, 2002


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