The Physical Geography of Western Europe

By Eduard A. Koster | Go to book overview

Preface

European landscapes are to a large extent ‘cultural landscapes’. Millennia of human activities have reshaped the surface of Europe intensively and irreversibly. Due to the complex geological and geomorphological history and the resulting intricate landscape patterns as well as the exceptionally strong human impact on the landscape a highly diverse physical geographical region has developed in western Europe.

Although landscape typologies, textbooks, and maps discussing and depicting physical geographical regions have been published at a national level, they are still lacking on a European scale. In contrast to Physical Geography there are several excellent overviews on the Geology of Europe, including extensive information on stratigraphy, geophysics, natural resources, geological hazards, and environmental issues (Rutten 1969; Ager 1980; Ziegler 1991; Blundell et al. 1992; Lumsden et al. 1994).

This regional physical geography text is the sixth in a series that is produced by Oxford University Press. The series involves a finite number of volumes devoted to major regions of the world. Each volume presents a detailed and current statement of knowledge written by specialists in the various research fields of physical geography. With this book, we aspire to fill a void in geographical and earth science literature, namely, the lack of a comprehensive, high–quality systematic and regional overview on the Physical Geography of Western Europe.

The twenty–one chapters are broadly divided into three groups: systematic framework, regional environments, and environment and human impact. The volume includes an overview of the main natural environmental factors (structural geology, tectonic evolution, landscape evolution and Quaternary climate changes, glacial geomorphology, periglacial processes, river, marine, aeolian, and peatland environments), a discussion on major physical geographical regions (Danish–German–Dutch Wadden region, German Uplands and Alpine Forelands, French–Belgian Uplands, Parisian Basin, French Alps and Alpine Forelands), and a consideration of environmental issues partly related to human impact (climate, soils, forestry, geomorphic hazards, air–soil-water pollution, urban geoscience, and geoconservation).

Although the chapters are framed within a more or less agreed context, the contributions by the individual authors inevitably involve much synthesis and some subjectivity. All chapters have been subject to an elaborate reviewing and editing procedure in order to promote some measure of uniformity in format, consistency, and depth of the discussions. To the same end all figures have been redrawn. To assist the reader in pursuing certain subjects, each chapter contains a selective bibliography, including a limited number of classic works and more or less recent, generally available, scientific publications.

Embleton’s reference book, the Geomorphology of Europe (1984), was the first comprehensive survey on the geomorphological regions of Europe. It contains a wealth of information on the geomorphological evolution and related issues in Earth Sciences, such as (Quaternary) Geology, Physical Geography, and Soils. The present volume on the Physical Geography of Western Europe might be seen as the successor of Embleton’s work. Seen in this perspective I now realize how difficult it is to ‘stand on the shoulders of a giant’.

Eduard A. Koster Utrecht, Huizen, Bédoin 2004

-vi-

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