TECTONIC GEOMORPHOLOGY OF MOUNTAINS by W. B.Bull (ed). Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2007. No. of pages: x+316. Price: £ 42-50. ISBN 978-1-4051-5479-6 (hardback).

David J. Miller*, * Department of Geography and Geology, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica

The aims of the book are to explore the tectonic geomorphology of mountain fronts across a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and to expand palaeoseismological studies by encouraging a geomorphic approach to palaeoseismic research, based on current concepts and principles inherent in geomorphology. Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains is based on over 30 years of paleoseismology research studies by Bill Bull on tectonic deformation as a major factor influencing geomorphic systems in the mountain regions of the western United States of America and New Zealand, and compliments his earlier book on Geomorphic Responses to Climate Change. Parts of the book are reliant on previously unpublished literature, which sheds light on new geomorphic approaches and techniques that can be used to better understand diagnostic earthquake-generated landforms in mountainous areas.

The book is intended for research geologists and upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in Earth sciences, which is about where the book is pitched. However, it is more for the ‘geological geomorphologist’, as the reader should have a reasonable background in geological principles, particularly some knowledge of structural geology, as well as of current geomorphic theories. The Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains is therefore more likely to be of use to upper-level undergraduate and postgraduate students in a geomorphology programme embedded within a broad geology curriculum, but is beyond the scope of undergraduates reading geomorphology within a physical geography degree, who may not have an adequate background in geology. The book is, however, essential reading for any research geologist or geomorphologist working in the mountainous regions of California, the Basin and Range Province and other parts of the western United States, while the final chapter is critical reading for Earth scientists with an interest in the geomorphology of the South Island of New Zealand.

Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains is divided into six broad chapters. Chapter 1 outlines the fundamentals of bedrock uplift, and the importance of scrunch and stretch tectonics from a geomorphic perspective. Chapter 2 examines the constraints and limits on how rapidly rivers can cut into mountainous landscapes and how active tectonics shapes fluvial systems at the drainage basin level. Chapters 3 and 4 relate to mountain fronts, how they are classified based on their tectonic activity and their distinctive characteristics. The title of Chapter 5 on fault scarps may appear a little misleading at first hand to some readers, as it is intended to emphasize the study of small scarps near to mountain-piedmont junctions on alluvial fans and river terraces. Such alluvial scarps are important in relatively recent palaeoseismological investigations in arid and semi-arid mountain fronts, where piedmont alluvial scarps remain visible in the landscape over time. Chapter 6 is in many respects the most interesting section of the book, where a new lichenometric method is examined to date and describe palaeoseismic shaking, using lichen growth on regional coseismic synchronous rockfall events and other landslides, citing examples from the Alpine Fault transpressional zone of the South Island of New Zealand and the Sierra Nevadas of the United States. It also examines the topic of dendroseismology, which, together with lichenometry, are new and exciting geomorphic approaches to palaeoseismology, and become known as the Bull–Brandon approach to palaeoseismic studies.

The book contains more than 750 references in the comprehensive bibliography, though these citations are intended to be only a gateway to further reading. There is also a useful 12 page combined subject and geographical index. I found a few scattered typographical errors and some references to table numbers in the text appear incorrectly, though these errors are slight and do not detract the reader.

In his preface, Bill Bull remarks ‘Do expect essential concepts that should help you better understand the landscape evolution of your favourite mountains’. This is the ultimate goal of the Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains and, having read the book, I am now looking at the Jamaican Blue Mountains in a totally different light.