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Distinguishing between the concepts of steady state and dynamic equilibrium in geomorphology

The development of the concept of equilibrium in geomorphology over the past 15 years has been marked by linguistic difficulties due, in part, to the interchangeable use of the terms, dynamic equilibrium and steady state. It is here proposed that the range of steady state conditions constitute a sub-set of the range of conditions of dynamic equilibrium. The application of General Systems Theory is responsible for the introduction to geomorphology of the term steady state which in the strictest sense refers to the tendency for constant forms to develop. Gilbert understood dynamic equilibrium to mean an adjustment between the processes of erosion and the resistance of the bedrock. More recently, Leopold and Langbein described dynamic or quasi-equilibrium as a state of energy distribution which does not necessarily involve any regularity of form. However, dynamic equilibrium finds expression over space and time, in the evolving regularity and mutual adjustment of form elements. The development of regular erosional landforms reflects the tendency of the energy conditions of a system to make the final adjustment to the most probable state. If the manner of landform evolution is the point in question, the concepts of dynamic equilibrium and steady state become clearly distinguishable and system boundaries must be precisely defined. In field studies the theoretical approach is often superseded by the pragmatic approach. However, unless the logical distinction between the two concepts is made in the first place confusion will continue to persist in geomorphic analysis.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Earth Science Journal
Abrahams, A.D. (1968). Distinguishing between the concepts of steady state and dynamic equilibrium in geomorphology. Earth Science Journal, 2(2), 160-166.
Waikato Geological Society, The University of Waikato
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