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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 56 (1972)

Issue: 9. (September)

First Page: 1907

Last Page: 1907

Title: Environmental Geology and Genetic Mapping: ABSTRACT

Author(s): L. F. Brown, Jr.

Article Type: Meeting abstract


One of the most critical problems facing the world during the last decades of this century will be the effect of expanding population with its myriad needs for water, sanitation, recreation, and proper land use, coupled with complementary industrial expansion in developing magalopolis belts. A paradox exists between a concern about the ultimate supply of natural resources necessary to maintain the present western life style, and a growing concern about diminishing resources and the impact of accelerating exploitation on delicately balanced or endangered environments and ecosystems. Environmental management is the key to proper balance between exploitation and conservation.

Environmental geology is, above all else, the practical or functional application of the science to critical environmental problems; geologists have for years similarly applied the science to mineral exploration and investigations of earth history and processes. More and more traditionally trained geologists will begin filling an increasing number of positions involving environmental studies; these tasks will require the best in research and application that the science of geology has to offer.

A major geologic thrust is needed at this time to define and inventory natural environmental systems, their present status, and the impact of human modification. The principal geologic tool in the battle against pollution, diminishing resources, and indiscriminate land use will be properly conceived and innovative geologic maps. The United States is poorly covered by geologic maps of adequate scale and proper concept for solving impact problems. Maps should be composed principally of genetic units, even if they do not conform to traditional maps nor formally accepted nomenclature. For example, first-order environmental units may include substrate units or facies such as fluvial channel-fill sand or reef limestone; vegetational units such as salt marsh or grass-stabilized dunes; landfo ms such as tidal deltas or highly dissected badlands; process-defined units such as landslide areas or storm-washover channels; and manmade units. Maps of genetic units allow rapid derivation of special-use environmental maps for a broad spectrum of scientists and nonscientists. Delineation of genetic units allows three-dimensional extrapolation and interpolation of physical properties to predict the behavior of material under varied land use.

Results of environmental geologic investigations should be presented using innovative formats and techniques that encourage interdisciplinary communication, unite diverse specialists, and allow all experts to focus simultaneously on impact problems. Coupled with computer data storage, the environmental geologic map and derivative maps provide a current record of natural environments, processes and materials, as well as a permanent record of rates of erosion, deposition, and human modification and exploitation. Planners, economists, engineers, biologists, chemists, lawyers, legislative councils, and others can plot, plan, refer, and digest specific environmental data that are visually related to detailed inventory maps depicting the distribution and nature of fundamental natural system .

Approximately 12 man-years of environmental geologic and derivative mapping and study in the 18,000-sq-mi Texas coastal zone by the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology have resulted in text and 64 full-color maps including Environmental Geology, Current Land Use, Physical Properties, Environments and Biologic Assemblages, Active Processes, Mineral and Energy Resources, Man-Made Features and Water Systems, Rainfall, Discharge and Surface Salinity, and Topography-Bathymetry. The "Environmental Geologic Atlas of the Texas Coastal Zone" provides a case history with which the philosophy, approaches, and results of an extensive environmental investigation can be evaluated.

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Copyright 1997 American Association of Petroleum Geologists