ESR 13 - How do Source-to-sink landscapes and systems impact patterns of human habitation?


Alluvial landscapes built by large S2S river systems form the environmental templates on which the earliest urban societies nucleated. Here, perennial water supplies from mountain-fed rivers and fertile, low gradient floodplains provided the resources and space for the growth and evolution of human societies. These landscapes remain vital spaces for human habitation and agricultural production, but we know little about how S2S systems control spatial and temporal patterns of human habitation and landscape utilisation. Given rapid increase in human population and the concomitant anthropogenic impacts on the environment, there is a need to better understand how S2S landscapes are populated and how this has changed through time. Concurrently natural processes have increased the probability of environmental risk to people living on river floodplains. In order to better understand the impact to landscapes and the human population that live in the landscapes from natural and anthropogenic risks there is a need to explore population growth in relation to S2S landscape elements at a large scale. In this project, we plan to study these impacts using the Indo-Gangetic foreland basin as a test example. Our earlier work here (Singh et al 2017) demonstrated how urbanization in early civilisations, in this case the Indus Civilisation, was governed by fluvial morphodynamics. Here, we aim to firstly analyse historical patterns of settlement on the Indo-Gangetic basin to explore the role of landscape evolution on the spatial distribution of urban development. Secondly, we aim to analyse recent patterns of the spatial distribution of populations and their growth with relation to landscape in the Indo-Gangetic basin. The study will involve detailed mapping of the morphology and characterization of S2S landscape elements in the Indo-Gangetic basin using a range of satellite imagery and digital elevation data. Such mapping will be conducted at a range of scales: large scale mapping to provide a synoptic view of the S2S fluvial systems and more focused detailed mapping of key regions of interest to better understand fine-scale processes.


Expected Results:

  • Geomorphic maps at a range of scales of Indo-Gangetic basin and identification of regions of interest for more focused study. Compilation of historical settlement data from archaeological and historical sources,
  • Compilation of population statistics for Indo-Gangetic basin from Indian government and international sources. Spatial mapping of population densities over a range of years,
  • Model on relationship of population densities and S2S landscapes. Historical settlement patterns and landscape evolution.



  • IORA Ecological Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (S. Narayan) – Advanced remote sensing and GIS analysis; gain in countryexpert knowledge of landscape ecology and landscape resources; discuss and conduct landscape mapping and analysis with IORA experts (3 months)




S2S-FUTURE project gathers an outstanding European research and training network of 15 PhD students, hosted at world-leading academic institutions and industrial companies, whose aim is to develop the S2S paradigm as a powerful vector for understanding sedimentary accumulations as natural resources.

The project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 860383.