Monday, September 27, 2010

Landscapes into Rock - Part 3

This post continues my summary of the Landscapes into Rock conference that took place in London, September 21-23, 2010.  Click here for previous posts.

The second theme of the conference – The Dynamics of the Sediment Routing System – was chaired by Alex Densmore (Durham University) and Ruth Robinson (University of St. Andrews), who assembled a very good mix of nine talks and three keynote speakers: James Syvitski (University of Colorado), Greg Tucker (University of Colorado) and Chris Paola (University of Minesota).

Interesting research of the Golo source-to-sink system was presented by Tor Somme (University of Bergen) et al.  One of the interesting conclusions was that channel aggradation may occur both during eustatic highstand and lowstand, and that sediment partitioning along the source to sink continuum may be controlled by internal thresholds rather than external forcing.

 The keynote by Greg Tucker (University of Colorado) on rapidly changing landscapes underscored some interesting points:

  • channel incision rate correlates with characteristic stream power and shear stress;
  • temporal variability in sediment cover is an important control in long-term bedrock river incision.

Chris Paola’s keynote address on mass balance effects in depositional systems was full of insight, discussing many fascinating concepts:

  • fractional sediment extraction and the subsidence-driven depositional mass loss 
  • similarity in fining profiles along depositional trends
  • the use of generalized models/experiments as reference cases of down transport changes, against which field or subsurface cases can be compared
For the benefit of advancing our knowledge and workflows Chris jokingly invoked the need for adhering to the “Republic of Simplicity”, which created a cascade of comments in almost every talk that followed. Others, in return, advocated the “Republic of Complexity” or the “Monarchy of Necesity”, leading to great discussions but also polarized opinions among two camps: those who view the need to approach the Earth’s dynamic systems in all of their complexity, and those who believe that a simplifying approach maybe more appropriate. I certainly subscribe to the simplicity theory, while I choose to remain a citizen of the world and not subscribe to any republic or monarchy :)


  1. As I said on Twitter, thanks much for putting the time in to post your thoughts on this conference. When I first saw it advertised I really wanted to go, but just couldn't make it happen.

    I'm very interested in these ideas (and trying my best to contribute to them). There's a session at the AGU meeting in December that will be good. And then there's an AGU Chapman Conference about the subject as well (abstracts due Oct 8):

    Ahh, the ol' universality vs. complexity debate, I love that stuff! It's especially productive w/ beers or wine. :) I've always thought that one of the points of it is to keep debating either way -- i.e., deciding simple vs. complex isn't the goal, the goal is to keep debating it.

    (p.s. thanks for changing the way comments are done, much appreciated)

  2. Brian, thanks for the comments, and also for the info on the conferences. The AGU Chapman looks particularly attractive! And agree, simple vs. complex type discussion goes well with beer or wine :)


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