Environmental change and geomorphology

Ed.: Roland Baumhauer; Brigitta Schütt

2002. IV, 226 pages, 85 figures, 16 tables, 17x25cm, 550 g
Language: English

(Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementbände, Volume 128)

ISBN 978-3-443-21128-8, paperback, price: 79.00 €

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geomorphology environment Quaternary sediment Holocene


Preface top ↑

Helmut Jäger begins his textbook 'Introduction to Environmental History' with the sentence: "During the past millenium man influenced the environment more sustainably and more irreversibly in a global scale than during the preceding 1.8 million years since his existence as Homo erectus. Today's threat to the environment is also a threat to mankind".

In modern western societies environmental prevention is highly, sometimes even irrational highly accepted. Otherwise, most recently the change of global politic's general framework, including globalization of business, caused a rigid change of political priorities. Resulting from this irrational motives increasingly substitute rational motives as the change in spirit and, thus, coincides with the loss of the most important link of a secular society. These consequences might be predominantly due to the replacement of reliable discussions by obliging and entertaining events as it can be noticed in all levels of politics as well as in science and press coverage. In this way, rational balancing of reasons of future discussions are blocked or even impeded. Reflecting these overall conditions of sensing environment and environmental risks and of decision making's general conditions it turns out to be essential to interfere understanding of environmental processes to avert arbitrary or even manipulated decisions.

In this context, surely questioning man's influence on his environment in the past as well as in the present is of importance. Especially concerning the past there are material fundamentals missing for an extensive understanding of the manifold intertwined processes inside the terrestrial ecosystem. This comprehension does not just provide a basis for rating the current state but also for judging future changes of the prevailing environmental conditions. The reconstruction of former environments (i.e. the alteration of the respective basic conditions), either natural or caused by man, can only be determined by parallel and affiliating acquisition of the environmental factors, i.e. man's role as motor for the creation of the man-made environment - finally resulting in a a cultural landscape. The contributions and results reported and discussed during the 26th Annual Geomorphology Conference in Trier in the frame of "Geomorphology and the History of the Environment" are available in this volume. They can be seen as components yielding insight into complex interrelations, which they mediate and also convert into application-oriented, hence practicable use.

Review: Z.Geomorph. N.F. 50, 2006, p. 141-142 top ↑

The study of environmental change during the Anthropogene is becoming increasingly important, as societies develop a growing awareness of future climatic changes and possible human impacts on the environment. Obviously, no proper predictions of future geomorphologic reaction to environmental changes can be made without a clear understanding of past environmental changes, and particularly during the Holocene. In this context, coordinated and integrated efforts may lead to a more complete understanding of past and future environmental change. Integrated studies of human influence on environmental change and geomorphology have led to the formation of geoarchaeological projects with interdisciplinary research, in which geomorphology plays an important part. The 26th Annual Geomorphology Conference in Trier, Germany, on Geomorpology and the History of the Environment, convened by ROLAND BAUMHAUER and BRTGITTA SCHUTT, focused on past human influence on the environment.

In 13 contributions, all but one written in English, 31 scientists from Germany (30) and Austria (1) present their recent results. - High-resolution dating in combination with geochemical investigations leads to a record of sedimentary yield for the last 14,000 years for a crater lake and its catchment in western Germany; on the basis of paleolimnological data B.ZOLITSCHKA discusses natural versus human forcing. Since the lst millennium BC, periods of human-induced environmental change are documented. - A data bank of archaeological sites for a mountainous region in western Germany is used by H. LOHR, B. SCHUTT and R. BAUMHAUER to reconstruct location factors (elevation a. s. 1., soils, geology) of prehistoric sites. - R. MARKET, R. SCHNEIDER, A. FRTEDMANN and J. SEIDEE present a detailed study on environmental change and human impact on relief development in the Upper Rhine valley and Black Forest durin`, the Atlantic, related to the first Neolithic settlements, and from the late Bronze Age to the end of the Roman Empire. The human influence on geomorphologic processes was most pronounced during the Latene and Roman periods. -The geomorphological setting of the important late Iron Age oppidum (settlement) of Manching at the Danube River is described by J. VÖLKEL, M. LEOPOLD and B. WEBER, as well as the late Iron Age soil erosion in the vicinity of a Celtic square enclosure near the Danube valley in southeast Bavaria. For the first time, a detailed quantitative and precision-dated reconstruction of soil erosion and collovial sedimentation is presented for a prehistoric landscape. - Geomorphologic-sedimentological investigations next to a 7250 cal yr BP settlement in southwestern Germany, carried out by A. SCHULTE and T. HECKMANN, show that human farming activities had a substantial influence on environmental change only during the Bronze Age, but not earlier. - The colluvial sequences on till plains in Vorpommern (north-east Germany) are investigated and discussed by H. HELBIG, P. de KLERK, P. KÜHN and J. KWASNIOWSKI. The authors emphasize that it is still difficult to correlate certain phases of accelerated soil erosion with periods of Slavonic and German colonisation, especially where the homogeneity of the colluvial soils on present-day agricultural fields do not allow a high resolution in time. - A reconstruction of the lateglacial and early: Holocene landscape evolution of the Upper Rhine River floodplain with the tributary Neckar River between Frankfurt/Main and Heidelberg reveals the influence of climatic changes and oscillations on floodplain sedimentation, peat growth, dune formation etc. (R. DAMBECK and J. A. A. Bos). Rhine and Neckar show a different geomorphologic pattern during the Allerod and Younger Dryas. - A number of models are used by L. SCHROTT and T. ADAMS to quantify postglacial sediment volumes and denudation in an alpine basin of the Italian Dolomites. Debris flows are most important among the geomorphic processes of denudation and sedimentation. - In the east Austrian alpine foreland, H. EICHER shows how special farming methods (since Roman times) and the political border between the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation and the Kingdom of Hungary (AD 1043-AD 1918) are reflected by alluvial clay sedimentation in the cut-and-fill terrace landforms. - During the Holocene, four sediment and three soil formation cycles are distinguished by D. FAUST and C. ZIELHOFER in the Qued Medjerba valley in northern Tunesia. The sediment-soil-sequence of the floodplain records water level amplitude changes, which are correlated with environmental and cultural changes. During the last ca. 440 years BP extreme flood events occurred. - In a case study of the Gongola Basin in northeast Nigeria, K.-M. MOLDENHAUER shows that river incision is caused by severe ecological degradation processes, which are not the result of climate change but of over-utilization of fragile ecosystems. - Case studies from southwest Germany of IR-OSL-dated colluvial archives as evidence for the Holocene landscape history are presented by A. KADEREIT, A. LANG, S. HÖNSCHEIDT, J. MÜTH and G. WAGNER. Their results corroborate the results of other studies: Although small scale Neolithic colluvium formation is detected, the relief-forming deposition of thick footslope covering colluvia only started in the Bronze Age; pre-modern colluvial sedimentation was significantly accelerated in the Iron/Roman period and reached its most pronounced phases during the Middle Ages. Older sediments from interim storages on the slope are reworked successively. - By analysing more than 1,000 drill cores, T. SCHNEIDER reconstructs the postglacial development of alluvial cones and bogs along the northern border of the German Alps. A number of phases of enhanced fluvial accumulation and peat growth IS documented. The development of the cones occurred mainly during the lategla- clal period. However, human influence through intense forest grazing and forest degradation since medieval times is recorded in sedimentation and erosion processes.

The main focus of the contributions has been the impact of human activities on the natural environment. Environmental change and geomorphology is a scientifically sound and well-written book giving a comprehensive overview of recent German research. Most of the research work reported here was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Especially interesting is the main theme, i. e. the observation that anthropogenic factors are the main causes for geomorphological processes and environmental changes since the Bronze Age, a fact often overlooked in geomorphology textbooks. The volume offers an excellent approach by considering an impressive variety of methods, which include geomorphological, geomorphometrical and geophysical methods (seismic refraction, geoelectrical sounding, ground penetrating radar), GIS techniques, pedological analyses, modelling, drilling, dating by 14CC, IRSL, OSL, TL, archaeological methods and dating by artifacts, pollen analyses, examination of historic maps and written archives, etc. This volume should have a wide readership not only within the geoarchaeology community but also within the geomorphology community. After all, during the past millennium humans influenced the environment more decisively and irre- versibly in a global scale than during the preceding more than 2.5 million years since the species Homo existed (quoted from the preface).

KLAUS HEINE, Regensburg

Table of Contents top ↑

Zolitschka, B.: Late Quaternary sediment yield variations - natural versus
human forcing (with 5 figures) 1-15
Löhr, H., Schütt, B. & Baumhauer, R.: A data bank of archaeological sites for
the Trier region (Rhineland-Palatine, Germany) to reconstruct location factors
of pre-historical sites (with 10 figures) .17-29
Mäckel, R., Schneider, R., Friedmann, A. & Seidel, J.: Environmental
changesand human impact on the relief development in the Upper Rhine valley
and Black Forest (South-West Germany) durin the Holocene (with 7 figures) 31-45
Völkel, J., Leopold, M. & Weber, B.: Neue Befunde zur Landschaftsentwicklung
im niederbayerischen Donauraum während der Zeitenwende (keltischesOppidum von
Manching/Viereckschanze von Poign bei Bad Abbach [The landscape development in
the Danube area of South-East Bavaria during timechange - new results (Celtic
Oppidum of Manching/Celtic Square Enclosures of Poign-Bad Abbach)] (mit 5
Abbildungen und 2 Tabellen) 47-66
Schulte, A. & Heckmann, T.: Human influence on Holocene environmental change
in the Hegau region, SW Germany (with 5 figures) 67- 79
Helbig, H., de Klerk, P., Kühn, P. & Kwasniowski, J.: Colluvial sequences on
till plains in Vorpommern (NE Germany) (with 8 figures and 4 tables) 81-100
Dambeck, R. & Bos, J.A.A.: Lateglacial and Early Holocene landscape evolution
of the northern Upper Rhine River valley, south-western Germany (with 10
figures and 4 tables) 101-127
Schrott, L. & Adams, T.: Quantifying sediment storage and Holocene denudation
in an Alpine basin, Dolomites, Italy (with 6 figures and 4 tables) 129-145
Eicher, H.: Alluvial clay sedimentation in the cut-and-fill terrace-landforms
of East Styria and its anthropogenetic pecularity in time-orientation (East
Austrian Alpine Foreland) [Auenlehmsedimentation im Oststeirischen Plattenland
und ihre anthropogenetische Besonderheit der zeitlichen Einordnung
(Ostösterreichisches Alpenvorland)] (with 7 figures) 147-160
Faust, D. & Zielhofer, C.: Reconstruction of the Holocene water level
amplitude of Oued Medjerda as an indicator for changes of the environmental
conditions in Northern Tunisia (with 1 photo and 3 figures) 161-175
Moldenhauer, K.-M.: Effects of environmental changes on hydrology and riverbed
dynamics in the Gongola-Basin, NE Nigeria (with 2 photos, 5 figures and 2
tables) 177-190
Kadereit, A., Lang, A., Hönscheidt, S., Müth, J. & Wagner, G.A.: IR-OSL-dated
colluvial archives as evidence for the Holocene landscape history. Case
studies from SW Germany (with 7 figures) 191-207
Schneider, Th.: The development of alluvial cones and bogs along the northern
border of the Alps - the Murnauer Moos in Upper Bavaria (with 7 figures)