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Over geologic spans of time, Earth's shifting tectonic plates, atmosphere, freezing water, thawing ice, flowing rivers and evolving life have shaped Earth's surface features. The resulting hills, mountains, valleys and plains shelter ecosystems and interact with all life, providing a record of Earth surface processes that extends back through Earth's history. Despite rapidly growing scientific knowledge of Earth surface interactions and feedbacks, and the increasing availability of new monitoring technologies, understanding of how interconnected processes generate and degrade landscapes is incomplete. Scientists are challenged to take full advantage of the extensive archive that Earth's surface provides.
This book identifies nine grand challenges in this emerging field of study and proposes four high-priority research initiatives. It poses questions about how our planet's past can tell us about its future; how landscapes record climate and tectonics and how Earth surface science can contribute to developing a sustainable living surface for future generations.