The Physical Environment

Physical Environment

Physical geography analyzes the Earth's environment from the perspectives of biogeography, geomorphology and climatology. Physical geographers at MU focus primarily on connections between vegetation, streams, and a changing climate, with a particular emphasis on the human role in modifying these natural systems:


The human role in changing the physical landscapes of the American Midwest

M.A. Urban. 2018. In Defense of Crappy Landscapes. Handbook of Critical Physical Geography. Palgrave Press.  

K. Hunt. (2009) Land Cover Change (1815 to 2007) in the Central Missouri River Hills. Masters Thesis, University of Missouri.

K. Rouse (2005) The impacts of dam closure on downstream wetlands: A headwater perspective. Masters Thesis, University of Missouri.

M.A. Urban. and B. L. Rhoads (2003) Catastrophic human-induced change in stream channel planform and geometry in an agricultural watershed, Illinois, USAAnnals of the Association of American Geographers 93: 783-796.

Cowell, C.M. and Jackson, M.T. (2002) Vegetation change in a forest remnant at the eastern presettlement prairie marginNatural Areas Journal 22: 53-60.


Modification of rivers and its ecological impacts

M. Sunde, H.S. He, J.A. Hubbart, and M.A. Urban. (2018) An integrated modeling approach for estimating hydrologic responses to future urbanization and climate changes in a mixed-use Midwestern watershed. Journal of Environmental Management.
A. Chin, L.R. Laurencio, M.D. Daniels, E. Wohl, M.A. Urban, K. Boyer, A. Butt, H. Piegay, K.J. Gregory. (2012) The Significance of perceptions and feedbacks effectively managing wood in rivers. River Research and Applications. DOI: 10.1002/rra.2617. 
C. Ruffing, and M.A. Urban. (2010) Three-dimensional measurement of river turbulence, in McGraw Hill 2010 Yearbook of Science & Technology, ed. David Blumel. 385-387. New York: McGraw Hill.
A. Chin, M.D. Daniels, M.A. Urban, H. Piegay, K.J. Gregory, W. Bigler, K. Boyer, A. Butt, J. Grable, S.V. Gregory, M. LaFrenz, L.R. Laurencio, and E. Wohl. (2008)  Perceptions of Wood in Rivers and Challenges for Stream Restoration in the United States. Environmental Management. 41 (6): 893-903.

M.A. Urban, and M. Daniels (2006) Exploring the links between Geomorphology and Ecology. Geomorphology Special Issue - Linking Geomorphology and Ecology, ed. M.A. Urban, M. Daniels, and M. Doyle. 77: 203-206.

M. Cowell. and J.M. Dyer. (2002) Vegetation development in a modified riparian environment: Human imprints on an Allegheny River wilderness. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92:189-202.

C.M. Cowell. and R. Stoudt. (2002) Dam-induced modifications to upper Allegheny River streamflow and their biodiversity implications. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 38: 1-10.


Vegetation change from presettlement to present

G.P. Elliott. (2012) The role of thresholds and fine-scale processes in driving upper treeline dynamics in the Bighorn Mountains, WyomingPhysical Geography 33:129–145.

G.P. Elliott and K.F. Kipfmueller. (2011) Multi-scale influences of climate on upper treeline dynamics in the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA: Evidence of intra-regional variability and bioclimatic thresholds in response to 20th century warmingAnnals of the Association of American Geographers 101: 1181-1203.

K.F. Kipfmueller, G.P. Elliott, E.R. Larson, and M.W. Salzer. (2010) An assessment of the dendroclimatic potential of three conifer species in northern Minnesota. Tree Ring Research 66: 113-126.

G.P. Elliott. and E.R. Larson. (2009) Disturbance and successional dynamics in an old-growth white pine-mixed hardwood forest in the Great Lakes region of Minnesota. The Geographical Bulletin 50: 17–35.

C. Blodgett, R. Lea and D. Diamond. (2008) Development of new remote sensing techniques for mapping wetlands in the Missouri River floodplain. Final Report to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas City, Missouri.

C.M. Cowell. and J.J. Hayes. (2007) Structure, history and dynamics of a mature oak-beech forest in western Indiana. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 134: 215-222.

T. Holmes. (2006) Four Decades of Change in an Old-growth Beech-Maple Forest in Indiana. Masters Thesis, University of Missouri.

G.P. Elliott. and W.L. Baker. (2004) Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) at treeline: a century of change in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, U.S.A. Journal of Biogeography, 31: 733–745.

J. Hamilton. (2003) Historic Distribution of Shortleaf Pine in the Missouri Ozarks. Masters Thesis, University of Missouri.

M.J. Batek, A.J. Rebertus, W.A .Schroeder, T.L. Haithcoat, E. Compas, and R.P. Guyette. (1999) Reconstruction of early nineteenth-century vegetation and fire regimes in the Missouri OzarksJournal of Biogeography 26:397-412.

C.M. Cowell. (1998) Historical Change in Vegetation and Disturbance on the Georgia Piedmont. American Midland Naturalist 140:78-89.


Changing climatic controls and impacts

Y. Li, and M.A. Urban, Eds. (2016) Water Resource Variability and Climate Change. Basel: MDPI Books. 378 pp. ISBN 978-3-03842-244-0

G.P. Elliott. (2012) Extrinsic regime shifts drive abrupt changes in regeneration dynamics at upper treeline in the Rocky Mountains, USAEcology, 93: 1614–1625.

G.P. Elliott. (2011) Influences of 20th century warming at upper treeline contingent on local-scale interactions: evidence from a latitudinal gradient in the Rocky Mountains, USAGlobal Ecology and Biogeography 20: 46–57.

C.M. Cowell, and M.A. Urban. (2010) The changing geography of the U.S. water budget: 20th century patterns and 21st century projections.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers.  100 (4): 740-754. 

G.P. Elliott. and K.F. Kipfmueller. (2009) Multi-scale influences of slope aspect and spatial pattern on ecotonal dynamics at upper treeline in the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research.

S.S. Ziegler, E.R. Larson, J. Rauchfuss, and G.P. Elliott. (2008) Tree establishment during dry spells at an oak savanna in Minnesota. Tree-Ring Research 64: 53–60.