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Professor Angela Gurnell

Professor of Physical Geography

email: a.m.gurnell@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 8927
Location: Geography Building, Room 206

Profile

Angela Gurnell

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 is pursuing three main research themes: (i) interactions between vegetation and fluvial processes; (ii) the hydroecological characteristics of urban rivers; (iii) improving the science underpinning river restoration

Some Recent Key Publications

  •  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.J., Steiger, J., Tabacchi, E., Walcker, R. Engineer pioneer plants respond to and affect geomorphic constraints similarly along water-terrestrial interfaces worldwide. Global Ecology and Biogeography, accepted.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Corenblit, D., Corenblit, D., García De Jalón, M. González Del Tánago, R.C. Grabowski, O’Hare, M.T., M. Szewczyk. (2015)  A conceptual model of vegetation-hydromorphology interactions within river corridors. River Research and Applications. 10.1002/rra.2928.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Grabowski, R.C. Vegetation-hydromorphology interactions in a low-energy, human-impacted river. River Research and Applications, 10.1002/rra.2922.
  • 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, 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.
  • Gurnell, A.M. (2014) Plants as river system engineers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39, 4-25.
  • Gibbs H.M., Gurnell A.M., Heppell CM, Spencer K.L. 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.
  • Grabowski R.C., Surian  N, Gurnell A.M. 2014. Characterizing geomorphological change to support sustainable river restoration and management. WIREs Water 2014, doi: 10.1002/wat2.1037.
  • Mardhiah U,  Rillig M.C., Gurnell A.M. 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.
  • Corenblit, D., Steiger, J., Charrier, G., Darrozes, J., Dousseau, J., González, E., Gurnell, A.M., Julien, F., Lambs, L., Larrue, S., Roussel, E., Vautier F., 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.
  • Henshaw, A.J., Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W. and Drake, N.A. (2013) Riparian vegetation dynamics along the Fiume Tagliamento, Italy: a Landsat TM-based analysis. Geomorphology. 2002, 74-85.
  • Camporeale, C., Perucca, E., Ridolfi, L., Gurnell, A.M. (2013) Modeling the interactions between river morphodynamics and riparian vegetation. Reviews of Geophysics, 51, paper 2012RG000407.
  • Liffen, T., Gurnell, A.M., O’Hare, M.T. (2013) Profiling the below ground biomass of an emergent macrophyte using an adapted ingrowth core method. Aquatic Botany, 110: 97-102.
  • Gurnell, A.M., O’Hare, M.T., O’Hare, J.M., Scarlett, P., Liffen, T.M.R. (2013) The geomorphological context and impact of the linear emergent  macrophyte, Sparganium erectum L.: a statistical analysis of observations from British rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 38, 1869-1880.

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

Teaching

Professor Gurnell does not have any formal teaching commitments.

Research

Research interests:


Pioneer landforms created by plants in rivers of different planform

(1) Interactions between vegetation and fluvial processes

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 reach scales. This research has demonstrated:

  1. How dead and resprouting wood are key ingredients in island development on braided rivers (Gurnell et al., 2001)
  2. How changes in the vigour and growth rates of riparian trees are associated with changes in river channel style and morphology, even in rivers up to 1km wide (Bertoldi et al., 2011).
  3. How aquatic plants can be the main control on bed morphology and lateral channel migration in low gradient lowland rivers. (Gurnell, 2013)
  4. How plants induce the development of characteristic ‘pioneer’ landforms in rivers of different size and planform, creating an important interface between the river channel and its margins (Gurnell et al., 2012)
  5. 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. (Gurnell et al., 2007, 2008)

 


Screen shot from the Urban River Survey website

(2) The hydroecological characteristics of urban rivers

Engineering works constrain the morphological characteristics of urban rivers, whereas their flow, water quality and sediment transport regimes are constrained by their river network setting. Over the last decade, I have worked with several research students and assistants to develop a set of tools to characterise and assess the biophysical properties of urban river reaches and to place such assessments into their river basin context. This research has:

  1. Produced and tested a survey methodology for urban rivers (Davenport et al., 2004)
  2. Developed indices and classifications from the survey data to support management decision-making (Boitsidis et al., 2006)
  3. Proposed a suite of tools for communicating the biophysical condition of urban rivers (Shuker et al 2011).
  4. Analysed the data generated by the surveys to identify interpretable gradients in the biophysical structure of urban rivers (Gurnell et al., 2012).

The urban river survey (URS) methodology, the data collected using the technique, and maps of quality scores derived from the surveys can be viewed at the following website: www.urbanriversurvey.org.

 


Restored section of the River Cole, West Midlands

(3) Improving the science underpinning river restoration

Research on themes (1) and (2) is directly relevant to river restoration. I have conducted projects that have (a) evaluated interactions between naturally-colonising vegetation and the morphodynamics of a newly-cut river channel and (b) have monitored the response of rivers to interventions by implementing pre- and post- project assessments, particularly on urban water courses. These have all provided insights into the degree to which rivers are able to self-restore and, when active restoration is necessary, interventions can be small, aiming to activate self-restoration. Where such approaches are possible, they are extremely cost effective and can quickly generate morphologically diverse outcomes.

Publications

A full list of publications is available here. The following are a selection of papers published since 2010:

  • O’Hare, J.M., O’Hare, M.T., Gurnell, A.M., Dunbar, M.J., Scarlett, P.M., Laize, C. (2011) Physical constraints on the distribution of macrophytes linked with flow and sediment dynamics in British Rivers. River Research and Application, 27, 671-683, DOI: 10.1002/rra.1379.
  • Bertoldi, W., Drake, N.A., Gurnell, A.M. (2011) Interactions between river flows and colonising vegetation on a braided river: exploring spatial and temporal dynamics in vegetation cover using satellite data. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 36, 1474-1486, DOI: 10.1002/esp.2166.
  • Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M. and Drake, N.A. (2011) The topographic signature of vegetation development along a braided river: results of a combined analysis of airborne lidar, colour air photographs and ground measurements. Water Resources Research, 47: W06525, 13pp, DOI: 10.1029/2010WR010319.
  • Liffen, T., Gurnell, A.M., O’Hare, M., Pollen-Bankhead, N., Simon, A. (2011) Biomechanical properties of the emergent macrophyte Sparganium erectum: implications for landform development in low energy rivers. Ecological Engineering, 37, 1925– 1931, doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2011.06.015.
  • Pollen-Bankhead, N., Thomas, R.E., Gurnell, A.M., Liffen, T., Simon, A., O’Hare, M.T. (2011) Quantifying the potential for flow to remove the emergent aquatic macrophyte Sparganium erectum from the margins of low energy rivers. Ecological Engineering, 37(11),  1779-1788, doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2011.06.027.
  • Corenbilt, D., Baas, A., Bornette, G., Darrozes, J., Delmotte, S., Francis, R.A., Gurnell, A.M., Julien, F., Naiman, R.J., Steiger, J. (2011) Feedbacks between geomorpholohgy and biota controlling Earth surface processes and landforms: A review of foundation concepts and current understandings. Earth Science Reviews, 106, 307-331, DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2011.03.002.
  • Shuker, L., Gurnell, A., Raco, M (2011) Some simple tools for communicating the biophysical condition of urban rivers to support high-level discussions regarding river restoration. Urban Ecosystem, 15: 389-408, DOI: 10.1007/s11252-011-0207-2.
  • Cockel, C.P. and Gurnell, A.M., 2011. An investigation of the composition of the urban riparian soil propagule bank along the River Brent, Greater London, UK, in comparison with previous propagule bank studies in rural areas. Urban Ecosystems 15: 367-387, doi: 10.1007/s11252-011-0203-6.
  • O’Hare, J., O’Hare, M.T., Gurnell, A.M., Scarlett, P.M., Liffen, T., McDonald, C. (2011) Influence of an ecosystem engineer, the emergent macrophyte Sparganium erectum, on seed trapping in lowland rivers and consequences for landform colonisation. Freshwater Biology, 27 (6) 671–683. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2011.02701.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W., Corenblit, D. (2012) Changing river channels: the roles of hydrological processes, plants and pioneer fluvial landforms. Earth Science Reviews, 111 (1-2) 129-141, doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2011.11.005..
  • Gurnell, A.M. (2012) Wood and river landscapes. Nature Geoscience, 5, February 2012, 93-94.
  • Perona, P., Molnar, P., Crouzy, B., Perucca, E., Jiang,Z., McLelland, S., Wüthrich, D., Francis, R., Camporeale, C., Gurnell, A. (2012). Biomass selection by floods and related timescales: Part 1. Experimental observations. Advances in Water Resources 39, 85-96.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Shuker, L., Lee, M., Boitsidis, A. (2012) Gradients in the biophysical structure of urban rivers and their association with river channel engineering. River Research and Applications, 28, 908-925.
  • Garófano-Gómez, V., F. Martínez-Capel, Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A., Estornell, J., Segura-Beltrán, F.  (2013). Six decades of changes in the riparian corridor of a Mediterranean river: a synthetic analysis based on historical data sources. Ecohydrology 6, 536-553.
  • Bertoldi, W., Gurnell, A.M., Welber, M. (2013) Wood recruitment and retention: The fate of eroded trees on a braided river explored using a combination of field and remotely-sensed data sources, Geomorphology, 180-181, 146-155.
  • 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. Early view
  • Liffen,T., Gurnell, A.M., O'Hare, M.T., Pollen-Bankhead, T., Simon,A. (2013) Associations between the biomechanical properties and morphology of Sparganium erectum: implications for survival and ecosystem engineering. Aquatic Botany, 105, 18-24
  • Henshaw, A.J., Gurnell, A.M., Bertoldi, W. and Drake, N.A. (2013) Riparian vegetation dynamics along the Fiume Tagliamento, Italy: a Landsat TM-based analysis. Geomorphology. 2002, 74-85.
  • Camporeale, C., Perucca, E., Ridolfi, L., Gurnell, A.M. (2013) Modeling the interactions between river morphodynamics and riparian vegetation. Reviews of Geophysics, 51, paper 2012RG000407.
  • Liffen, T., Gurnell, A.M., O’Hare, M.T. (2013) Profiling the below ground biomass of an emergent macrophyte using an adapted ingrowth core method. Aquatic Botany, 110: 97-102.
  • Gurnell, A.M., O’Hare, M.T., O’Hare, J.M., Scarlett, P., Liffen, T.M.R. (2013) The geomorphological context and impact of the linear emergent  macrophyte, Sparganium erectum L.: a statistical analysis of observations from British rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 38, 1869-1880.
  • 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.
  • Bombino, G., Boix-Fayos, C., Gurnell A.M., Tamburino, V., Zema, D.A., Zimbone, S.M. (2013) Check dam influence on vegetation species diversity in mountain torrents of the Mediterranean environment. Ecohydrology 7(2): 678-691.
  • Gurnell, A.M. (2014) Plants as river system engineers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 39, 4-25.
  • Mardhiah U, Caruso T, Gurnell A, Rillig M.C. 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.
  • Belletti, B., Rinaldi, M., Buijse, A.D., Gurnell, A.M., Mosselman, E. 2014. A review of assessment methods for river hydromorphology. Environmental Earth Sciences, DOI 10.1007/s12665-014-3558-1
  • Mardhiah U,  Rillig M.C., Gurnell A.M. 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 C.M., Spencer K.L. 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.
  • Gurnell, A.M. 2014. Plants as river system engineers: further comments. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, DOI: 10.1002/esp.3671.
  • 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.
  • Shuker, L., Moggridge, H., Gurnell, A.M. (2015) Assessment of hydromorphology following restoration measures in heavily modified rivers: illustrating the potential contribution of the Urban River Survey to Water Framework Directive investigations. Area, early view.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Grabowski, R.C. Vegetation-hydromorphology interactions in a low-energy, human-impacted river. River Research and Applications, 10.1002/rra.2922.
  • Gurnell, A.M., Corenblit, D., Corenblit, D., García De Jalón, M. González Del Tánago, R.C. Grabowski, O’Hare, M.T., M. Szewczyk. A conceptual model of vegetation-hydromorphology interactions within river corridors. River Research and Applications, 10.1002/rra.2928.
  • 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, 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.J., Steiger, J., Tabacchi, E., Walcker, R. Engineer pioneer plants respond to and affect geomorphic constraints similarly along water-terrestrial interfaces worldwide. Global Ecology and Biogeography, accepted.
  • Grabowski, R.C., Gurnell, A.M. Diagnosing problems of fine sediment delivery and transfer in lowland, Northwest European catchments: The Frome catchment, southern England  Aquatic Sciences, accepted.
  • Gurnell, A.M., M. Rinaldi, M. González Del Tánago, B. Belletti, S. Bizzi, B. Blamauer, G. Braca, T. Buijse, M. Bussettini, B. Camenen, F. Comiti, L. Demarchi, D. García De Jalón, R.C. Grabowski, I.D.M. Gunn, H. Habersack, D. Hendriks, A. Henshaw, M. Klösch , B. Lastoria, A. Latapie, P. Marcinkowski, V. Martínez Fernández, E . Mosselman, J.O. Mountford, L. Nardi, T. Okruszko, M.T. O’Hare, M. Palma, C. Percopo, N. Surian, C. Weissteiner, L. Ziliani. A hierarchical framework for developing understanding of river behaviour, Aquatic Sciences, accepted.
  • González Del Tánago, M., Belletti, B., Gurnell, A.M. Indicators of river system character and dynamics, past and present: understanding the causes and solutions to river management problems, Aquatic Sciences, accepted.

PhD Supervision

Postgraduate research opportunities in Earth Surface Science

PhDs awarded or in progress

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)

Current Students

  • 2012 James Holloway EMJD (QMUL) Third year

Public engagement

See the Research tab for information about the Urban River Survey as well as the Urban River Survey website.

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