DOI: 10.1177/03091333231217881 ISSN: 0309-1333

A horizon scan for novel and impactful areas of physical geography research in 2023 and beyond

Karen Anderson, Stephen Tooth, Daehyun Kim, Lynn M Resler, Daniel Schillereff, John W Williams, Duccio Rocchini, Alexandra G Ponette-González, Nikolaus J Kuhn, Jayne V Brian
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development

This editorial reports on a horizon scan exercise that was undertaken to identify new frontier topics, new or emerging themes/concepts, or new philosophical questions of relevance to physical geography. Researchers with broad geographical and disciplinary scope, all of whom were members of the journal's editorial board or editorial advisory board, were invited to join a horizon scan panel. The horizon scan Chair canvassed panel members for ideas, resulting in an initial 32 independently proposed topics. Similar topics were merged by the Chair, and panel members were then invited to vote on and score anonymously the remaining 28 topics, bearing in mind the perceived importance/relevance and novelty for the discipline. The final ranking and sifting phase produced a list of 12 topics, which were categorised as being either new study areas or new epistemological frameworks for physical geography. In this editorial, we outline these 12 topics, some of which have been inspired by developments outside of the discipline, but we identify how potentially fertile contributions could be added by physical geographers. We discuss how new studies of extreme event geographies, the impacts of compound stressors, cross-system pollution and toxicity, the geomorphological basis of zoonoses, ancient environmental DNA, the projection and visualisation of landscape futures, and planetary sciences can all benefit from additional physical geography perspectives. We then consider the ways in which physical geographers may engage further with new approaches in personalised and internet-of-things monitoring, artificial intelligence, innovative technologies for teaching physical geography, the study of human-climate impacts, and the raising of the profile of physical geography thinking alongside other knowledge forms. We encourage more physical geographers to apply their unique skillsets and ways of thinking to these topics. The journal will welcome new submissions, or proposals for special issues, that address these topics from physical geographers and their colleagues.

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