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Landscape Evolution

Module titleLandscape Evolution
Module codeGEO2444
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Liam Reinhardt (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Why does the World we live in look the way it does? What are the physical, human and biological processes that are shaping it? In this module you will examine the key land-forming processes that shape our living landscape, at what rates and over what timescales. We will also examine how humans and other living organisms have interacted with surface process to create the landscape(s) in which we live today.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In the broadest sense tectonic forces promote surface uplift while climate shapes the Earth’s surface through its effects on glaciers, rivers, weathering and atmospheric circulation. This module will examine how terrestrial surface processes interact over decades-centuries-to-millennia to create the landscape(s) in which we live. The role played by human activities in landscape evolution during the Holocene will be investigated, in particular the effect of mining and agriculture in landform development. We will also look towards the future as the pace and extent of human activities accelerate to become the dominant processes shaping the World around us. The convenor’s active research in Dartmoor will be discussed and used as a case study demonstrating how current research is informing our understanding of landscape evolution.

Through fieldwork and attending weekly lectures you will further develop the following academic and professional skills. Please note that the field trip may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.

  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems),
  • managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities) and
  • time management.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the processes that shape the landscape in which we live
  • 2. Describe in detail the geomorphological processes operating in a variety of environments
  • 3. Explain the importance of internal process-variability and the effect of external forcings

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of physical geography
  • 5. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 6. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in physical geography
  • 7. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within physical geography
  • 8. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of physical geography with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 12. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Topics covered in this module include:

  • Key concepts in landscape evolution
  • Living landscapes: Co-evolution of life and its landscape
  • Dartmoor: a case study in human landscape development
  • Rivers and drainage basins
  • Hillslopes and soils
  • Glacial and periglacial landscapes
  • Coastal zone dynamics
  • Aeolian processes

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching16Class room lectures (8 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Field trips
Guided independent study122Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the module1-12Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1501500 words1-11Written
Exam501 hour1-11Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay (1500 words)1-11August assessment period
ExamEssay (1500 words)1-11August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Recommended textbooks:

  • Burbank, D.W. and Anderson, R.S. (2012) Tectonic geomorphology, Wiley & Sons. 454pp. –ebook-
  • Gregory and Lewin (2014) The Basics of Geomorphology: Key concepts, Sage, 231pp.
  • Goudie, A. and Viles, A. (2010) Landscapes and geomorphology : a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 137pp.
  • Newman, P. (2011) The field archaeology of Dartmoor, English Heritage, 264pp.
  • Ritter et al (2002) Process Geomorphology, 4thed, McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 560pp.

Key Journals associated with this module are: Geomorphology, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Earth Science Reviews, and more specific journals for sub-disciplines of geomorphology such as The Holocene, Periglacial Processes and Journal of Coastal Research.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Fluvial, coastal, Aeolian, hillslope, landscape-geomorphology, earth science, environmental change, glaciers, human landscapes

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date