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Department of Geography


Professor Keith S Richards MA PhD

Emeritus Professor of Geography and Fellow of Emmanuel College

(Note to potential graduate applicants: Having retired, I am no longer able to act as a lead supervisor for PhD students)

Research interests include river channel forms and processes; drainage basin hydrological and sediment production and transfer processes; modelling fluvial, hillslope and hydrological systems; river management, river and floodplain restoration, and inter-relationships between hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments; water resource management and water-energy-land resource interactions (the so-called “nexus”); governance and environmental systems; science studies and the environment sciences; environmental science and policy.



  • 1984-2014: Lecturer, Reader, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 1998-2002: Director, Scott Polar Research Institute
  • 1978-1984: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, University of Hull


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


  • 2015: David Linton Medal, British Society for Geomorphology
  • 2013: Founder’s Medal, Royal Geographical Society
  • 2013: Elected Fellow, British Society for Geomorphology
  • 2005: Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts
  • 2002: Chartered Geographer, Royal Geographical Society


Most of my research is conducted within the thematic group dealing with Environmental Systems and Processes, particularly the Terrestrial and Coastal Environments Theme. It has been fairly wide-ranging, from glacial hydrology to arid zone hydrology via studies of fluvial processes in small Alpine braided rivers to large Himalayan rivers. The “water” group has been innovative in using terrain modelling methods, photogrammetry, computational fluid dynamics and discrete element modelling in the investigation of hydraulic, sediment transport and channel morphology in studying fluvial, hillslope and basin-scale processes. An additional interest has been 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.

Completed and current research projects include:

  • 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 prospects of arsenic in groundwater sources
  • the Foreseer project, supported by BP, which is concerned with water-energy-land resource interactions (the “nexus”), and the visualisation of future scenarios for California, China, and (in the EPSRC-funded WholeSEM project (Whole Systems Energy Modelling), for the UK (these are collaborative projects in the University, based in the Department of Engineering.
  • polycentric water governance and the introduction of ecologically-based water quality assessment, particularly in Europe and China, and as represented in the RiBaGo project
  • the relationship between environmental science and environmental policy, and especially the role of inter-disciplinary knowledge (as in the ESF-funded RESCUE project.


Selected books and edited collections

  • 2009 Arsenic Pollution: a Global Synthesis. Ravenscroft, P., Brammer, H. and Richards, K.S. Wiley Blackwells, Oxford, 589pp (RGS-IBG Book Series)
  • 2007 Reduced-complexity, physically-based geomorphological modelling for catchment and river management. Special issue, Geomorphology, Brasington, J. and Richards, K (eds)
  • 2007 Conversations across the divide. Special issue, Geoforum, Harrison, S., Massey, D. and Richards, K. (eds).
  • 2004 River: Form and Process in Alluvial Channels. The Blackburn Press. 360 (facsimile)
  • 2004 The Flooded Forest: Guidance for policy makers and river managers in Europe on the restoration of floodplain forests. edited with F. Hughes and others. European Commission, 90pp
  • 2004 Discrete element modelling: methods and applications in the environmental sciences. eds KS Richards and MT Dove. Theme Issue, Philosophical Transactions, Royal Society Series A, 362 (1822), 1797-2030

Selected articles since 2010

  • He S, Richards K. (2017) Kobresia meadow degradation and its impact on water status. Ecohydrology. 2017, e1844.
  • He, S and Richards, KS (2016) Stable isotopes in monsoon precipitation and water vapour in Nagqu, Tibet, and their implications for monsoon moisture. Journal of Hydrology 540, 615-622
  • Song, C, Ke, L, Richards, KS and Cui, Y (2015) Homogenization of surface temperature data in High Mountain Asia through comparison of reanalysis data and station observations. International Journal of Climatology DOI: 10.1002/joc.4403
  • Konadu, D, Sobral Mourão,Z, Allwood, JM, Richards, KS, Kopec, GM, McMahon, RA, Fenner, RA (2015) Not all low-carbon energy pathways are environmentally “no-regrets” options. Global Environmental Change 35, 379–390
  • He, S and Richards, K (2015), Impact of Meadow Degradation on Soil Water Status and Pasture Management—A Case Study in Tibet. Land Degrad. Develop. 26, 468–479 doi: 10.1002/ldr.235
  • MacGillivray, B and Richards, K (2015) Approaches to evaluating model quality across different regime types in environmental and public health governance. Global Environmental Change 33, 23-31
  • Konadu, DD, Sobral Mourão, Z, Allwood, J, Richards, KS, Kopec, G, McMahon, R and Fenner, R (2015) Land use implications of future energy system trajectories – the case of the UK 2050 Carbon Plan. Energy Policy 86, 328-337
  • Qin, Y, Curmi, L, Kopec, GM, Allwood, JM and Richards, KS (2015) China’s energy-water nexus – assessment of the energy sector’s compliance with the “3 Red Lines” industrial water policy. Energy Policy 82, 131–143
  • Song, C, Linghong K, Bo Huang, Richards, KS (2015) Can mountain glacier melting explain the GRACE-observed mass loss in the southeast Tibetan Plateau from a climate perspective? Global & Planetary Change 124, 1–9 doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.11.001
  • Song C, Huang B, Ke L and Richards KS (2014) Seasonal and abrupt changes in the water level of closed lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and implications for climate impacts. Journal of Hydrology 514, 131–144
  • Bajželj, B, Richards, KS, Allwood, JM, Smith, P, Dennis, JS, Curmi, E and Gilligan, C (2014) Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation. Nature Climate Change 4, 924-929 DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2353
  • Khan, A., Richards, K, Parker, G, McRobie, A and Mukhopadhyay, B (2014) How large is the Upper Indus Basin? The pitfalls of auto-delineation using DEMs. Journal of Hydrology 509, 442-453
  • Keylock, CJ, Lane, SN and Richards, KS (2014) Quadrant/octant sequencing and the role of coherent structures in bed load sediment entrainment. Journal of Geophysical Research F: Earth Surface 119(2), 264-286
  • Song C, Huang B, Ke L and Richards KS (2014) Remote sensing of alpine lake water environment changes on the Tibetan Plateau and surroundings: A review. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 92, 26-37
  • Bithell, M., Richards, K. and Bithell, EG (2014) Simulation of scree-slope dynamics: Investigating the distribution of debris avalanche events in an idealized two-dimensional model. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms doi: 10.1002/esp.3548
  • Pahl-Wostl, C, Giupponi, C, Richards, K, Binder, C, de Sherbinin, A, Sprinz, D, Toonen, T and van Bers, C (2013) Transition towards a new global change science: Requirements for methodologies, methods, data and knowledge. Environmental Science and Policy 28, 36-47
  • Silveira, A. and K. Richards (2013). The Link between Polycentrism and Adaptive Capacity in River Basin Governance Systems: Insights from the River Rhine and the Zhujiang (Pearl River) Basin. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103(2), 319-329
  • Curmi, E, Fenner, R, Richards, K, Allwood, JM, Bajzelj, B and Kopec, GM (2013) Visualising a stochastic model of California water resources using Sankey diagrams. Water Resources Management 27, 3035-50
  • Curmi, E, Richards, K, Fenner, R, Allwood, JM, Kopec, GM and Bajzelj, B (2013) An integrated representation of the services provided by global water resources. Journal of Environmental Management 129, 456-462
  • Pahl-Wostl, C, Palmer, M and Richards, K (2013) Enhancing water security for the benefits of humans and nature – the role of governance. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5, 1-9
  • Sutherland, W.J., Bellingan, L., Bellingham, J.R., Blackstock, J.J., Bloomfield, R.M., Bravo, M., Cadman, V.M., Cleevely, D.D., Clements, A., Cohen, A.S., Cope, D.R., Daemmrich, A.A., Devecchi, C., Anadon, L.D., Denegri, S., Doubleday, R., Dusic, N.R., Evans, R.J., Feng, W.Y., Godfray, H.C.J., Harris, P., Hartley, S.E., Hester, A.J., Holmes, J., Hughes, A., Hulme, M., Irwin, C., Jennings, R.C., Kass, G.S., Littlejohns, P., Marteau, T.M., McKee, G., Millstone, E.P., Nuttall, W.J., Owens, S., Parker, M.M., Pearson, S., Petts, J., Ploszek, R., Pullin, A.S., Reid, G., Richards, K.S., Robinson, J.G., Shaxson, L., Sierra, L., Smith, B.G., Spiegelhalter, D.J., Stilgoe, J., Stirling, A., Tyler, C.P., Winickoff, D.E. and Zimmern, R.L. (2012) A collaboratively-derived science-policy research agenda. PLoSONE 7(3): e31824. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031824
  • Mao, F. and Richards, K.S. (2012) Irreversible river water quality and the concept of the reference condition. Area 44, 423-431
  • Zhao, T., Richards, K.S., Xu, H. and Meng, H. (2012) Interactions between dam-regulated river flow and riparian groundwater: a case study from the Yellow River, China. Hydrological Processes 26, 1552-1560
  • Richards, K. (2011) The field. In Handbook of Geographical Knowledge, eds. Agnew, J. and Livingstone, D. Sage, London, 53-63
  • Richards, K. (2011) The Weather Station and the Meteorological Office. In Agnew, J. and Livingstone, D.(eds) Handbook of Geographical Knowledge, Sage, London, 147-155
  • Richards, K. and Clifford, N. (2011) The nature of explanation in Geomorphology. Handbook of Geomorphology, ed. Gregory, K.J. Sage, London, 36-58
  • Antonarakis, A.S., Richards, K.S., Brasington, J., Bithell, M. and Muller, E. (2010) Determining LAI and leafy tree roughness using terrestrial lidar. Water Resources Research, doi: 10.1029/2009WR008595
  • Hughes, F.M.R., Johansson, M., Xiong, S,. Carlborg, E., Hawkins, D. Svedmark, M., Hayes, A., Goodall, A, Richards, K.S. and Nilsson, C. (2010) The influence of hydrological regimes on sex ratios in two dioecious riparian tree species in northern Sweden. Plant Ecology 208, 77-92

Selected articles before 2010

  • Hodge, R., Brasington, J. and Richards, K (2009) Investigating the structure of fluvial gravel beds using Terrestrial Laser Scanning. Sedimentology 10.1111/j.1365-3091.2009.01068.x
  • Ding, J and Richards, K (2009) Modelling sediment production and delivery in the Xihanshui River basin, Gansu, China. Catena 79, 277-87 doi:10.1016/j.catena.2009.05.014
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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


  • Variously in the Geographical Tripos Part IA (Land and Water); Part IB (Environmental Hazards, River Forms and Processes, Quantitative Methods); Part II Fluvial Processes
  • Field classes: Algarve, Arolla (Switzerland) – on many occasions

External activities

  • Editor, The Geographical Journal. (2015-2019)
  • 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); member of ESRC College (2010-)
  • 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 HEFC Research Assessment Exercise; Chairman, sub-Panel for Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology, 2014 HEFC Research Excellence Framework
  • Research assessor for DG XII of the European Commission, Belgian FNRS, Netherlands NWO, USA NSF, Estonia Research Assessment (2010)