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Geomorphological equilibrium: myth and metaphor?

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Equilibrium is a central concept in geomorphology. Despite the widespread use of the term, there is a great deal of variability in the ways equilibrium is portrayed and informs practice. Thus, there is confusion concerning the precise meanings and usage of the concept. This confusion has arisen because of the enshrinement of Gilbert's original ideas as a myth that supports a narrow, short-termist, process-based approach to geomorphology that developed following the quantitative revolution, and is furthermore essentially untestable. It may be better to represent equilibrium as a metaphor that underpins many geomorphological concepts and ideas, which are utilized in our everyday practice and which are built upon a relatively narrow, modernist perspective of the discipline.

Keywords: dynamical systems theory process and form; equilibrium; geomorphology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, Email: 2: Sheffield Centre for International Drylands Research, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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