Skip navigation

Professor Keith S Richards MA PhD

Professor of Geography and Fellow of Emmanuel College

Fluvial geomorphologist: interests include river channel forms and processes in a wide range of environments; hydrological processes and sediment production and transfer processes in drainage basins; modelling of fluvial and hydrological systems. Interests in glacial hydrology, fluvial processes in gravel bed river environments; and in river management, river and floodplain restoration, and inter-relationships between hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments.



  • 1978-1984: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, University of Hull
  • 1984-present: Lecturer, Reader, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.


  • MA Jesus College, University of Cambridge
  • PhD Jesus College, University of Cambridge


Most of my research is conducted within the group dealing with Environmental Processes. It has been fairly wide-ranging, from glacial hydrology to arid zone hydrology via studies of fluvial processes in small Alpine braided river to large Himalayan rivers. The Cambridge-based fluvial group has been very innovative, developing the use of terrain modelling methods, photogrammetry, and computational fluid dynamics in the investigation of hydraulic, sediment transport and channel morphology in complex natural river environments. A particular current interest is the interaction of fluvial, hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments, including the roles of channel migration dynamics as a control of floodplain biodiversity, the roughness effects of woody riparian vegetation, and hydrological influences on floodplain ecology.

Current and recent research projects include:

  • modelling fluvial processes at a variety of time and space scales (river reaches to catchments), but increasingly at intermediate time (decadal) and space (reach) scales where model complexity must be reduced while retaining physical realism
  • interactions of fluvial processes and floodplain ecology and the restoration of European floodplain forest ecosystems (more details can be found on the FLOBAR website)
  • regional projects on flood hydrology in northern Thailand; catchment sediment delivery in the Xihuanshui basin, southern Gansu, China; historical mapping of fluvial changes in west Bengal and Bangladesh
  • the Cambridge Arsenic Project - an interdisciplinary analysis of the causes, consequences and remediation of arsenic in groundwater sources

Other research projects relate to the Environment and Society research theme, and include:

  • the role of science and technology in environmental policy
  • the development of environmental scientific methodologies and research agendas
  • institutional structures for water management, with a focus on Europe and China


Selected publications:

  • Harrison, S., Massey, D.M. and Richards, K.S. (2008) "Conversations across the divide". Geoforum. 39, 549-551
  • Bithell, M., Brasington, J. and Richards, K. (2008) Discrete-element, individual-based and agent-based models: tools for interdisciplinary enquiry in geography? Geoforum 39, 625–642 doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.10.014
  • Hughes, F.M.R., Moss, T. and Richards, K.S. (2008) Uncertainty in riparian and floodplain restoration. In River Restoration: Managing the Uncertainty in Restoring Physical Habitat, eds Darby, S. and Sear, D., John Wiley & Sons, 79-104
  • Hughes, F. and Richards, K. (2008) Floodplains in Europe: the case for restoration. In Moss, T. (ed.) Restoring Floodplains in Europe: Policy Contexts and Project Experiences, IWA Publishing, 16-43
  • Vongtanaboon, S., Han She Lim and Richards, K. (2008) Data-based mechanistic rainfall-runoff modelling for a large monsoon-dominated catchment in Thailand. Silpakorn U Science & Tech J Vol. 2(1), 14-28
  • Antonarakis, A.S., Richards, K.S., Brasington, J., Muller, E., Bithell, M. (2008). Retrieval of vegetative fluid resistance terms for rigid stems using airborne lidar. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, G02S07, doi:10.1029/2007JG000543
  • Antonarakis, A. S., Richards, K.S., Brasington, J. (2008) Object-based land cover classification using airborne LiDAR. Remote Sensing of Environment 112, 2988–998
  • Lu, H. and Richards, K. (2008) Sediment delivery: new approaches to modelling an old problem. In Rice, S., Roy, A., and Rhoads, B. (eds) River confluences and the fluvial network. John Wiley & Sons, 337-366
  • Horn, R. and Richards, K. (2007) Modelling hydraulics in restored floodplain environments. In Wood, P, Hannah, DM and Sadler, JP (eds) Hydroecology and Ecohydrology: Past, Present and Future. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, 269-294
  • Brasington, J. and Richards, K. (2007) Reduced-complexity, physically-based geomorphological modelling for catchment and river management. Geomorphology 90 (3-4), 171-177 doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.10.028
  • Hodge, R., Richards, K. and Brasington, J. (2007) A physically-based bedload transport model developed for 3-D reach-scale cellular modelling. Geomorphology 90 (3-4), 244-262 doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.10.022
  • Chandra, S., Richards, K. and Rhodes, E. (2007) Luminescence dating of late Quaternary fluvial sediments in the Rapti Basin, north-central Gangetic plains. Quaternary International 159, 47-56
  • Harrison, S., Massey, D. and Richards, K. (2006) Complexity and Emergence (another conversation). Area 38(4), 465-71
  • Kidson, R., Richards, K.S. and Carling, P.A. (2006) Hydraulic model calibration for extreme floods in bedrock-confined channels: case study from Northern Thailand. Hydrological Processes 20, 329-344
  • Kidson, R., Richards, K.S. and Carling, P.A. (2006) Power law extreme flood frequency. In Cello, G. and Malamud, B.D. (eds.), Fractal analysis for Natural Hazards. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 261, 141-153
  • Lu, H., M. R. Raupach, and K. S. Richards (2005) Modeling entrainment of sedimentary particles by wind and water: A generalized approach. Journal of Geophysical Research, 110, D24114, doi:10.1029/2005JD006418
  • Clifford, N.J. and Richards, K.S. (2005) Earth System Science: an oxymoron? Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 30, 379-383
  • Keylock, C.J., Hardy, R.J., Parsons, D.R., Ferguson, R.I., Lane, S.N. and Richards, K.S. (2005) The theoretical foundations and potential for large-eddy simulation (LES) in fluvial geomorphic and sedimentological research. Earth Science Reviews 71(3-4) 271-304
  • Kidson, R., Richards, K.S. and Carling, P.A (2005) Reconstructing the ca. 100-year flood in Northern Thailand. Geomorphology 70 (3-4), 279-295
  • Kidson, R. and Richards, K.S. (2005) Flood Frequency Analysis: Assumptions and Alternatives. Progress in Physical Geography 29, 392-410
  • Richards, K. (2005) Paradigms, programmes and the RAE. Environment and Planning B. Planning and Design 32, 635-637
  • Hughes, F.M.R., Richards, K. and others (2004) The Flooded Forest: Guidance for policy makers and river managers in Europe on the restoration of floodplain forests. European Commission, 90pp
  • Richards, K.S., Bithell, M., Dove, M.T. and Hodge, R. (2004) Discrete element modelling: methods and applications in the environmental sciences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series A 362, 1-20
  • Richards, K. (2004) Rivers. In Patterned Ground, eds S Harrison, S Pile and N Thrift, Reaktion Books, London, 57-60
  • Richards, K, Bithell, M and Bravo, M. (2004) Space, time and science: individuals, emergence, and geographies of space and place. In Unifying Geography: Common Heritage, Shared Future, eds J.A. Matthews and D T Herbert, Routledge, London, 327-352
  • Harrison, S., Massey, D., Richards, K., Magilligan, F.J., Thrift, N. and Bender, B. (2004) Thinking across the divide: perspectives on the conversations between physical and human geography. Area 36, 435-442
  • Xiong, S., Johannsson, M E, Hughes, F M R, Hayes, A, Richards, K S and Nilsson, C (2003) Interactive effects of soil moisture, vegetation canopy, plant litter and seeds on plant diversity in a British wetland community. Journal of Ecology 91, 976-986
  • Richards, K (2003) Ethical grounds for an integrated geography. In Contemporary meanings in physical geography, eds. S Trudgill and A Roy. London, Arnold, 233-258
  • Richards, K (2003) Geography and the physical science tradition. In Key Concepts in Geography edited by Holloway, S.L., Rice, S.P. and Valentine, G. Pion, London, 23-50
  • Richards, K S, Brasington, J and Hughes, F (2002) Geomorphic Dynamics of Floodplains: Ecological Implications and a Potential Modelling Strategy. Freshwater Biology 47, 1-22
  • Richards, K (2002) Drainage basin structure, sediment delivery and the response to environmental change. In Sediment flux to drainage basins: causes, controls and consequences, eds Jones, S J and Frostick, L E, Geological Society of London, Special Publication 191, 149-160
  • Bradbrook, K.F., Lane, S.N., Richards, K.S., Biron, P.M. and Roy, A.G. (2001) Role of bed discordance at asymmetrical river confluences. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 127, 351-368
  • Richards, K S (2001) Floods, channel dynamics, and riparian ecosystems. In Mosley, M. P. (ed.) Gravel-Bed Rivers V, New Zealand Hydrological Society, Wellington NZ, 465-477
  • Hughes, F M R, Adams, W M, Muller, E, Nilsson, C, Richards, K S, and 13 others (2001) The importance of different scale processes for the restoration of floodplain woodlands. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 17, 325-345
  • Bradbrook, K.F., Lane, S.N., Richards, K.S., Biron, P.M. and Roy, A.G. (2000) Large Eddy Simulation of periodic flow characteristics at river channel confluences. Journal of Hydraulics Research 38(3), 207-215
  • Hughes, F.M.R., Barsoum, N. Richards, K.S., Winfield,M. and Hayes,A. (2000) The response of male and female black poplar (Populus nigra L.subsp. betulifolia (Pursh) W.Wettst.) cuttings to different water table depths and sediment types: implications for flow management and river corridor biodiversity. Hydrological Processes 14, 3075-3098
  • Brasington, J. and Richards, K.S. (2000) Turbidity and suspended sediment dynamics in small catchments in the Nepal Middle Hills. Hydrological Processes 14, 2559-2574
  • Lane, S.N., Bradbrook, K.F., Richards, K.S., Biron, P.M. and Roy, A.G. (2000) Secondary circulation cells in river channel confluences: measurement artefact or coherent flow structures? Hydrological Processes 14, 2047-2071
  • Bradbrook, K.F., Lane, S.N. and Richards, K.S. (2000) Numerical simulation of three-dimensional, time-averaged flow structure at river channel confluences. Water Resources Research 36, 2731-2746


  • Geographical Tripos (Undergraduate level)

External activities

  • Editorial Board of the Journal of River Basin Management; formerly Editor of Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
  • Founding Editor of the series Physical Geography and Environment for Routledge
  • Variously past Secretary, Vice Chairman, and Chairman of the British Geomorphological Research Group.
  • Member of NERC Committees (1990-1993, 1995-1998); member of NERC College (2004-2007)
  • Vice-President (Research) Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers (2004-2007)
  • President, Geography Section, British Association for the Advancement of Science (2006)
  • Chairman, sub-Panel for Geography and Environmental Studies, 2008 Research Assessment Exercise
  • Regularly acts as an expert assessor for DG XII of the European Commission.