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Towards a sociogeomorphology of rivers

Ashmore, Peter
Geomorphology 2015 v.251 pp. 149-156
anthropogenic activities, coevolution, ecological restoration, humans, landforms, rivers
While human impacts on rivers and other landforms have long been a component of geomorphic research, little of this work explicitly includes insights into human agency from social science or recognises that in many cases rivers can be considered to be hybrid co-productions or ‘socio-natures’. A socio-geomorphic approach proposed here has parallels with some aspects of sociohydrology and can extend and enrich existing geomorphic explanations of the morphology of, for example, urban rivers by explicitly recognising and working with the co-evolution of the human and natural systems. Examples from recent literature illustrate ways in which these relationships can be understood and analyzed, showing a range of socio-natural influences in particular contexts that have material consequences for river morphology and recognising that events in the system have many forms. The approach recognises the importance of contingency in time and place together with the role and nature of both local and global knowledge. An important element of this approach is that it provides ways for understanding the nature, position and intention of geomorphic and other scientific interventions as part of the system, for example in the case of river restoration. This also leads to the need for reflexivity by geomorphologists and reconsideration of the nature of geomorphological knowledge by those involved in such work and with respect to sociogeomorphology as a whole.