Revisiting the geomorphological-biological divide: an introspective biogeomorphological perspective

Dov Corenblit*, Bruno Corbara, Kevin Lala, Jonathan D. Phillips, Arnaud Pocheville, Erwan Roussel, Johannes Steiger, Heather A. Viles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We suggest that biogeomorphology should challenge the traditional dichotomy between living and non-living components of Earth surface systems. To achieve this, biogeomorphologists should gain a better understanding of eco-evolutionary models and empirical findings developing at the interface between ecology and evolutionary biology. Eco-evolutionary models explore feedback loops between genes, organisms and the physical or biological components outside the organism's body. This changes our understanding of how organisms interact with their environment and the functional and evolutionary significance of biologically induced landforms. In the niche construction framework, genes can be conceived as the foundational evolutionary units of selection and inheritance, and everything beyond of this unit can be considered as the ‘environment’ for gene expression, either packaged within or unpackaged outside the organism. Both the packaged biological and unpackaged environments can be influenced by genes and manufactured by organisms, respectively, in the form of phenotypes or niche constructions. We propose that biomineralized structures, such as bones, osteoderms, antlers and shells, which can be packaged at varying degrees within an organism, as well as external products of genes such as termite mounds, which are unpackaged at the periphery of the organism, form a gradient of variation in the relative dominance and functional integration of biotic and abiotic components in ecosystems. A more explicit consideration of the functional interrelationships between physical and biological components transcending their traditional boundaries should promote a re-evaluation of the dichotomy between biological and geomorphological entities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages197
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Biogeomorphology
  • Biomineralization
  • Eco-evolutionary feedbacks
  • Environment
  • Natural selection
  • Niche construction


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