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School of Geography

Professor Angela Gurnell

Angela

Professor of Physical Geography

Email: a.m.gurnell@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8927
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 103

Profile

My research interests are at the interface between hydrology, geomorphology and plant ecology, with particular emphasis on the morphodynamics and sustainable management of rivers and their margins. My current research pursues two main research themes: (i) interactions between vegetation and fluvial processes; (ii) monitoring and assessing rivers

Some Recent Publications

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W. 2020. Extending the conceptual model of river island development to different environmental conditions and tree species. River Research and Applications, 36(7): 1183-1201.

  • Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M. 2020. Physical engineering of an island-braided river by two riparian tree species: evidence from aerial images and airborne lidar. River Research and Applications, 36(7): 1183-1201.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Scott, S.J., England, J., Gurnell, D.J., Jeffries, R., Shuker, L., Wharton, G. 2020. Assessing river condition: A multiscale approach designed for operational application in the context of biodiversity net gain. River Research and Applications, 36(8): 1559-1578.

  • Shumilova O., Tockner K., Gurnell A.M., Langhans S.D., Righetti M., Lucía A., Zarfl C. 2019. Floating matter: A neglected component of the ecological integrity of rivers. Aquatic Sciences 81, doi:10.1007/s00027-019-0619-2

  • Wohl, E., Comiti, F., Fausch, K., Gurnell, A.M., Jaeger, K., Kramer, N., Lininger, K., Piégay, H., Ruiz-Villanueva, V., Scott, D., Stout, J., Walters, D. 2019. The natural wood regime in rivers. BioScience, 69, 259-273, doi:10.1093/biosci/biz013

  • Gurnell, A.M., England, J., Shuker, L., Wharton, G., 2019. The contribution of volunteers to river monitoring: international and national perspectives and the example of the MoRPh survey. River Research and Applications, 35(8), 1359-1373.

  • Henshaw, A.J., Sekarsari, P., Zolezzi, G., Gurnell, A.M., 2019. Google Earth as a data source for investigating river forms and processes: Discriminating river types using form-based process indicators. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 45(2), 331-344.

  • Politti, E., Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M., Henshaw, A., 2018. Feedbacks between the riparian Salicaceae and hydrogeomorphic processes: a quantitative review. Earth Science Reviews, 176, 147-165.

  • Serlet, A.J., Gurnell, A.M., Zolezzi, G., Wharton, G., Belleudy, P., Jourdan, C. 2018. Biomorphodynamics of alternate bars in a channelized, regulated river: insights from an analysis of historical records. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43, 1739–1756, doi: 10.1002/esp.4349.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W., Francis, R.A., Gurnell, J., Mardhiah, U. 2018. Understanding processes of island development on an island braided river over timescales from days to decades. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 44(2): 624-640. Doi: 10.1002/esp.4494

  • Gurnell, A.M. 2018. Twenty-five years of progress in physical geography: a personal view of its antecedents and trajectory. Geography 103, 122-136.

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Underground Riparian Wood: Buried Stem and Coarse Root Structures of Black Poplar (Populus nigra L.). Geomorphology 279, 188-198. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.08.002

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Underground Riparian Wood: Reconstructing the Processes Influencing Buried Stem and Coarse Root Structures of Black Poplar (Populus nigra L.). Geomorphology 279, 199-208. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.07.027

  • Belletti, B., Rinaldi, M., Bussettini, M., Comiti, F., Gurnell, A.M., Mao, L., Nardi, L., Vezza, P. 2017. Characterising physical habitats and fluvial hydromorphology: a new system for the survey and classification of river geomorphic units. Geomorphology 283, 143-157.

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Physical Environmental Controls on Riparian Root Profiles associated with Black Poplar (Populus Nigra L.) along the Tagliamento River, Italy. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4076

  • Zen, S., Gurnell, A.M., Zolezzi, G., Surian, N. 2017. Exploring the role of trees in the evolution of meander bends: the Tagliamento River, Italy. Water Resources Research, 53, doi:10.1002/2017WR020561.

Awards

  • 2002    Victoria Medal, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
  • 2003    recognised as a ‘Pioneer in the life of the Nation’ by Queen Elizabeth II for contributions to river system management
  • 2012    Linton Medal, British Society for Geomorphology
  • 2021    Alfred Wegener Medal, European Geosciences Union

Teaching

Professor Gurnell does not have any formal teaching commitments.

Research

Research Interests:

(1) Interactions between vegetation and fluvial processes

Conceptual model of island development (Gurnell & Bertoldi, 2020)

While flows of water and sediment are the primary drivers of river morphodynamics, vegetation is also very important. I have been conducting research on this topic since the mid-1970s, and have contributed a wide range of new knowledge on the influence of aquatic and riparian plants at plant, landform and river reach scales. This research has demonstrated:

a.  How riparian and aquatic plants can act as physical engineers of river ecosystems, inducing the development of characteristic landforms in rivers of different size and planform, and in different biogeographical settings.

b.  How changes in the vigour and growth rates of a single species of riparian tree can be associated with changes in river channel style and morphology, even in rivers up to 1km wide and how riparian trees of different species can act as complementary river system engineers to drive landform development.

c.  How riparian tree species develop complex root systems that allow them to reinforce the fluvial landforms that they build.

d.  How aquatic plants can be the main control on bed morphology and lateral channel migration in low gradient lowland rivers.

e.  How plant propagules are dispersed in a similar way to sediment in fluvial systems, being deposited and retaining their viability in intermediate stores on the river bed and banks, and showing broad differences in their deposition sites according to species.

(2) Monitoring and Assessing Rivers

  Screen shot of Modular River Survey results

Over the last two decades, I have worked with many colleagues and research students to develop a set of tools to characterise and assess the biophysical properties of river reaches and to place such assessments into their river basin context.

These tools include: The Urban River Survey (www.urbanriversurvey.org), which supports the assessment of 500 m length subreaches of urban river; and the Modular River Survey, which allows rivers to be characterised at different spatial scales including short ‘MoRPh modules’ (10 m - 50 m river length), subreaches (100 m to 500 m), and reaches (several km) (www.modularriversurvey.org).

The tools allow surveyors to upload and download survey data and to view maps of synthetic indicators that are automatically calculated from the survey data. The tools are being used by both Volunteer Citizen Scientists and River Conservation/Management Professionals. Recently a River Condition Assessment (RCA) has been developed using the Modular River Survey. This RCA forms part of Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric 2.0 (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5850908674228224), which ‘provides developers, planners, land managers and others with a tool to help limit damage to nature in the first place and to help it thrive’. The RCA not only assesses the overall condition of a river reach on a Good to Poor Scale but through the calculation of over 30 intermediate Condition Indicators it explains why a river has achieved a particular condition and how its condition might be improved.

Publications

A full list of publications is available here. The following are a selection of papers published since 2014:

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W. 2020. Extending the conceptual model of river island development to different environmental conditions and tree species. River Research and Applications, 36(7): 1183-1201.

  • Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M. 2020. Physical engineering of an island-braided river by two riparian tree species: evidence from aerial images and airborne lidar. River Research and Applications, 36(7): 1183-1201.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Scott, S.J., England, J., Gurnell, D.J., Jeffries, R., Shuker, L., Wharton, G. 2020. Assessing river condition: A multiscale approach designed for operational application in the context of biodiversity net gain. River Research and Applications, 36(8): 1559-1578.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W. 2020. Wood in fluvial systems. In: Shroder, J., Jr. (Editor in Chief), Wohl, E. (Ed.), Treatise on Geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.12415-7

  • Shumilova O., Tockner K., Gurnell A.M., Langhans S.D., Righetti M., Lucía A., Zarfl C. 2019. Floating matter: A neglected component of the ecological integrity of rivers. Aquatic Sciences 81, doi:10.1007/s00027-019-0619-2

  • Wohl, E., Comiti, F., Fausch, K., Gurnell, A.M., Jaeger, K., Kramer, N., Lininger, K., Piégay, H., Ruiz-Villanueva, V., Scott, D., Stout, J., Walters, D. 2019. The natural wood regime in rivers. BioScience, 69, 259-273, doi:10.1093/biosci/biz013

  • Gurnell, A.M., England, J., Shuker, L., Wharton, G., 2019. The contribution of volunteers to river monitoring: international and national perspectives and the example of the MoRPh survey. River Research and Applications, 35(8), 1359-1373.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Foster, I.D.L., Gregory, K.J., Wood, P., 2019. Professor Geoffrey Petts (1953-2018): An outstanding interdisciplinary river scientist. River Research and Applications, 35(8), 1075-1090.

  • Henshaw, A.J., Sekarsari, P., Zolezzi, G., Gurnell, A.M., 2019. Google Earth as a data source for investigating river forms and processes: Discriminating river types using form-based process indicators. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 45(2), 331-344.

  • Politti, E., Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M., Henshaw, A., 2018. Feedbacks between the riparian Salicaceae and hydrogeomorphic processes: a quantitative review. Earth Science Reviews, 176, 147-165.

  • Serlet, A.J., Gurnell, A.M., Zolezzi, G., Wharton, G., Belleudy, P., Jourdan, C. 2018. Biomorphodynamics of alternate bars in a channelized, regulated river: insights from an analysis of historical records. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43, 1739–1756, doi: 10.1002/esp.4349.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Holloway, J.V., Liffen, T., Serlet, A.J., Zolezzi, G. 2018. Plant root and rhizome strength: Differences among species within river margins. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. doi:10.1002/esp.4499

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W., Francis, R.A., Gurnell, J., Mardhiah, U. 2018. Understanding processes of island development on an island braided river over timescales from days to decades. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 44(2): 624-640. Doi: 10.1002/esp.4494

  • Gurnell, A.M. 2018. Twenty-five years of progress in physical geography: a personal view of its antecedents and trajectory. Geography 103, 122-136.

  • Wilkes, M., Gittins, J., Mathers, K., Mason, R., Casas-Mulet, R., Vanzo, D., Mckenzie, M., Murray-Bligh, J., England, J., Gurnell, A.M., Jones, J.I. 2018. Physical and biological controls on fine sediment transport and storage in rivers. WIRES Water, 21 pages, doi: 10.1002/wat2.1331

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Underground Riparian Wood: Buried Stem and Coarse Root Structures of Black Poplar (Populus nigra L.). Geomorphology 279, 188-198. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.08.002

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Underground Riparian Wood: Reconstructing the Processes Influencing Buried Stem and Coarse Root Structures of Black Poplar (Populus nigra L.). Geomorphology 279, 199-208. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.07.027

  • Belletti, B., Rinaldi, M., Bussettini, M., Comiti, F., Gurnell, A.M., Mao, L., Nardi, L., Vezza, P. 2017. Characterising physical habitats and fluvial hydromorphology: a new system for the survey and classification of river geomorphic units. Geomorphology 283, 143-157.

  • Holloway, J.V., Rillig, M.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2017. Physical Environmental Controls on Riparian Root Profiles associated with Black Poplar (Populus Nigra L.) along the Tagliamento River, Italy. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4076

  • Zen, S., Gurnell, A.M., Zolezzi, G., Surian, N. 2017. Exploring the role of trees in the evolution of meander bends: the Tagliamento River, Italy. Water Resources Research, 53, doi:10.1002/2017WR020561.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Corenblit, D., García de Jalón, D., González del Tánago, M., Grabowski, R.C., O’Hare, M.T. and Szewczyk, M., 2016. A conceptual model of vegetation-hydrogeomorphology interactions within river corridors. River Research and Applications, 39, 142-163, DOI: 10.1002/rra.2928.

  • Gurnell, A.M. and Grabowski, R.C., 2016. Vegetation-hydrogeomorphology interactions in a low-energy, human-impacted river. River Research and Applications, 39, 202-215, DOI: 10.1002/rra.2922.

  • Gurnell, A.M., Rinaldi, M., Belletti, B., Bizzi, S., Blamauer, B., Braca, G., Buijse, T., Bussettini, M., Camenen, B., Comiti, F., Demarchi, L., García de Jalón, D., González del Tánago, M., Grabowski, R.C., Gunn, I.D.M., Habersack, H., Hendriks, D., Henshaw, A.J., Klösch, M., Lastoria, B., Latapie, A., Marcinkowski, P., Martínez-Fernández, V., Mosselman, E., Mountford, J.O., Nardi, L., Okruszko, T., O’Hare, M.T., Palma, M., Percopo, C., Surian, N., van de Bund, W., Weissteiner, C. and Ziliani, L., 2016. A multi-scale hierarchical framework for developing understanding of river behaviour to support river management. Aquatic Sciences, 78: 1-16. DOI 10.1007/s00027-015-0424-5.

  • Grabowski, R.C. and Gurnell, A.M., 2016. Diagnosing problems of fine sediment delivery and transfer in a lowland catchment. Aquatic Sciences, 78: 95-106. DOI 10.1007/s00027-015-0426-3.

  • Rinaldi, M., Gurnell, A.M., González del Tánago, M., Bussettini, M., Hendriks, D. 2016. Classification of river morphology and hydrology to support management and restoration. Aquatic Sciences, 78: 17-33. DOI 10.1007/s00027-015-0438-z

  • González del Tánago, M., Gurnell, A.M., Belletti, B. 2016. Indicators of river system hydromorphological character and dynamics: understanding current conditions and guiding sustainable river management. Aquatic Sciences, 78: 35-55. DOI 10.1007/s00027-015-0429-0

  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W., Tockner, K., Wharton, G., Zolezzi, G. 2016. How large is a river? Conceptualising river landscape signatures and envelopes in four dimensions. WIREs Water 2016. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1143

  • Zen, S., Zolezzi, G., Toffolon, M., Gurnell, A.M. 2016. Biomorphodynamic modelling of river-floodplain interactions in migrating meander bends. Advances in Water Resources Research 93: 166-181. DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2015.11.017 0309-1708/.

  • Corenblit, D., Steiger, J., Charrier, G., Darrozes, J., Garófano-Gómez, V., Garreau, A., González, E., Gurnell, A.M., Hortobágyi, B., Julien, F., Lambs, L., Larrue, S., Otto, T., Roussel, E., Vautier, F., Voldoire, O. 2016. Populus nigra L. establishment and fluvial landform construction: biogeomorphic dynamics within a channelized river. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 41(9): 1276-1292.

  • Ruiz-Villanueva, V., Piégay, H., Gurnell, A., Marston, R., Stoffel, M. 2016. Recent advances quantifying the large wood cycle and dynamics in river basins: new methods, remaining challenges. Reviews of Geophysics. 54, 611–652, doi:10.1002/2015RG000514

  • Gurnell, A.M. 2016. Trees, wood and river morphodynamics: results from 15 years research on the Tagliamento river, Italy. In Gilvear, D.J., Greenwood, M.T., Thoms, M.C., Wood, P.J. (eds) River Science: Research and Applications for the 21st Century, 132-155, John Wiley and Sons Ltd., Chichester, UK, DOI: 10.1002/9781118643525.

  • Grabowski, R.C., Gurnell, A.M. 2016. Using historical data in fluvial geomorphology. In: Kondolf, G.M., Piégay, H. (eds.) Tools in Fluvial Geomorphology, Wiley, Chichester, 56-75.

  • Osei, N.A., Gurnell, A.M., Harvey, G.L. 2015. The role of large wood in retaining fine sediment, organic matter and plant propagules in a small, single-thread forest river. Geomorphology 235, 767-87.

  • Garcia Lugo, A.G., Bertoldi, W., Henshaw, A.J., Gurnell, A.M. (2015) The effect of lateral confinement on gravel bed river morphology. Water Resources Research, 51, 7145-7158, DOI: 10.1002/2015WR017081.

  • Bertoldi, W., Welber, M., Gurnell, A.M., Mao, L., Comiti, F., Tal, M. 2015. Physical modelling of the combined effect of vegetation and wood on river morphology, Geomorphology, 246: 178-187, doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.05.038.

  • Corenblit, D., Baas, A., Balke, T., Bouma, T., Fromard, F., Garófano-Gómez, V., González, E., Gurnell, A.M., Hortobágyi, B., Julien, F., Kim, D., Lambs, L., Stallins, A., Steiger, J., Tabacchi, E. and Walcker, R., 2015. Engineer pioneer plants respond to and affect geomorphic constraints similarly along water–terrestrial interfaces world-wide. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24(12), 1363-137, doi: 10.1111/geb.12373.

  • Corenblit, D., Steiger, J., Charrier, G., Darrozes, J., Dousseau, J., González, E., Gurnell, A.M., Julien, F., Lambs, L., Larrue, S., Roussel, E., VautierF., Voldoire, O. (2014) The biogeomorphological life cycle of poplars during the fluvial biogeomorphological succession: a special focus on Populus nigra L. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39(4) 546-563.

  • Cockel, C., Gurnell, A.M., Gurnell, J. (2014) Management of an invasive plant species: physical manipulation experiments on Impatiens glandulifera along urban river banks. River Research and Application, 30, 217-229

  • Gurnell, A.M. (2014) Plants as river system engineers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39, 4-25.

  • Mardhiah U, Caruso T, Gurnell A, Rillig MC. 2014. Just a matter of time: fungi and roots significantly and rapidly aggregate soil over four decades along the Tagliamento River, NE Italy. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 75: 133-142.

  • Grabowski RC, Surian N, Gurnell AM. 2014. Characterizing geomorphological change to support sustainable river restoration and management. WIREs Water 2014, doi: 10.1002/wat2.1037.

  • Mardhiah U, Rillig MC, Gurnell AM. 2014. Reconstructing the development of sampled sites on fluvial island surfaces of the Tagliamento River, Italy, from historical sources. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, doi: 10.1002/esp.3658.

  • Gibbs HM, Gurnell AM, Heppell CM, Spencer KL. 2014. The role of vegetation in the retention of fine sediment and associated metal contaminants in London's rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 39(8): 1115-1127.

Supervision

Postgraduate research opportunities in Earth Surface Science

PhDs awarded

University of Southampton

  • 1976 Colin Fenn NERC
  • 1978 P. Anne Hughes NERC
  • 1978 Colin Prowse NERC
  • 1979 James Buttle Commonwealth Scholar
  • 1981 Nigel Arnell SSRC
  • 1982 John Threlfall NERC
  • 1983 Gary Moys NERC
  • 1985 Jeff Warburton NERC
  • 1986 Geraldene Wharton NERC
  • 1988 Giles Brown NERC
  • 1990 Andrew Hodson NERC
  • 1992 Stuart Downward NERC

University of Birmingham

  • 1994 David Hannah School
  • 1995 Conor Linstead NRA, IH, FA
  • 1996 Barnaby Smith EU
  • 1997 David Tickner NERC
  • 1998 Angela Davenport NERC
  • 1999 Joanne Goodson NERC
  • 1999 Joanne Emery NERC
  • 2001 Robert Francis School

Kings College London

  • 2003 Helen Moggridge NERC
  • 2003 May Lee Self
  • 2007 Simon Hoggart Thames21
  • 2008 Carry van Lieshout AHRC

Queen Mary University of London

  • 2007 Chris Cockel NERC
  • 2008 Lucy Shuker ESRC/NERC
  • 2008 Tom Liffen College
  • 2009 Helen Gibbs College
  • 2010 Nana Osei College Third year
  • 2011 Alejandra Garcia Lugo EMJD
  • 2011 Prima Sekarski
  • 2011 Simone Zen EMJD (Trento)
  • 2011 Ulfah Mardiah EMJD (Berlin)
  • 2012 James Holloway EMJD (QMUL)

Public Engagement

See the Research tab for information about the Modular River Survey and Urban River Survey as well as the following websites:

 

www.modularriversurvey.org

www.urbanriversurvey.org