Geospatial technologies and digital geomorphological mapping: Concepts, issues and research
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Geomorphological mapping plays an essential role in understanding Earth surface processes, geochronology, natural resources, natural hazards and landscape evolution. It involves the partitioning of the terrain into conceptual spatial entities based upon criteria that include morphology (form), genetics (process), composition and structure, chronology, environmental system associations (land cover, soils, ecology), as well as spatial topological relationships of surface features (landforms). Historically, the power of human visualization was primarily relied upon for analysis, introducing subjectivity and biases with respect to selection of criteria for terrain segmentation and placement of boundaries. This paper reviews new spatio-temporal data and geocomputational approaches that now permit Earth scientists to go far beyond traditional mapping, permitting quantitative characterization of landscape morphology and the integration of varied landscape thematic information. Numerous conceptual, theoretical, and information-technology issues are at the heart of digital geomorphological mapping (DGM), and scientific progress has not kept pace with new and rapidly evolving geospatial technologies. Consequently, new capabilities exist but numerous issues have not been adequately addressed. Therefore, this paper discusses conceptual foundations and illustrates how geomorphometry and mapping approaches can be used to produce geomorphological information related to the land surface and landforms, process rates, process-form relationships, and geomorphic systems. 2011 Elsevier B.V.