From Features to Fingerprints: A General Diagnostic Framework for Anthropogenic Geomorphology

Abstract : Human societies have been reshaping the geomorphology of landscapes for thousands of years, producing anthropogenic geomorphic features ranging from earthworks and reservoirs to settlements, roads, canals, ditches and plough furrows that have distinct characteristics compared with landforms produced by natural processes. Physical geographers have long recognized the widespread importance of these features in altering landforms and geomorphic processes, including hydrologic flows and stores, to processes of soil erosion and deposition. In many of the same landscapes, archaeologists have also utilized anthropogenic geomorphic features to detect and analyse human societal activities, including symbolic formations, agricultural systems, settlement patterns and trade networks. This paper provides a general framework aimed at integrating geophysical and archaeological approaches to observing, identifying and interpreting the full range of anthropogenic geomorphic features based on their structure and functioning, both individually and as components of landscape-scale management strategies by different societies, or “sociocultural fingerprints”. We then couple this framework with new algorithms developed to detect anthropogenic geomorphic features using precisely detailed three-dimensional reconstructions of landscape surface structure derived from LiDAR and computer vision photogrammetry. Human societies are now transforming the geomorphology of landscapes at increasing rates and scales across the globe. To understand the causes and consequences of these transformations and contribute to building sustainable futures, the science of physical geography must advance towards empirical and theoretical frameworks that integrate the natural and sociocultural forces that are now the main shapers of Earth’s surface processes.
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Paolo Tarolli, Wengfeng Cao, Giulia Sofia, Damian Evans, Erle Ellis. From Features to Fingerprints: A General Diagnostic Framework for Anthropogenic Geomorphology. Progress in Physical Geography, SAGE Publications, 2019, 43 (1), pp.95-128. ⟨10.1177/0309133318825284⟩. ⟨hal-02213454⟩

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